December 2, 2018
Today marks the beginning of the season of Advent. There are four Sundays in Advent. Advent is a time of preparation and anticipation of the birth of Jesus Christ. In Advent we look backwards in history to the events surrounding the historical birth Jesus. But we also keep in mind the fact that there will be a second advent or coming of Jesus, when he returns to establish his kingdom in the new heaven and new earth. Jesus was born as God’s anointed Messiah or king. When Jesus comes again he will come as the King of kings and Lord of lords.
This morning we are thinking about Mary. In Luke 1:26-38 we are able to peer into the moment when Mary found out that she was going to give birth to the Messiah. From this passage I want to ask, Will you allow Jesus to rule in your life?
I. HEAR THE GOSPEL MESSAGE.
When we read this account of the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary we do not come away thinking we have just heard the gospel. When we think of the gospel we generally focus on the death and resurrection of Jesus. But the gospel is the good news of forgiveness and life through the life and death of Jesus. Jesus’ atoning death cannot be separated from his miraculous birth. His birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension and second coming are all part of the gospel. When Gabriel came to Mary, he was bringing good news, which is what the word “gospel means.”
So let’s look at the good news found in this passage. As you know, Luke begins his gospel with the account of Gabriel coming to Zechariah, announcing that his wife, Elizabeth, who had been barren and who was well beyond childbearing age, would become pregnant. Their son was to be called John. We know him as John the Baptist.
When Elizabeth was in her 6th month of pregnancy, the angel Gabriel was sent to a young woman named Mary. Mary lived in Nazareth, presumably with her parents. She was engaged to a man named Joseph. We know very little about Mary. Nazareth was not a very important town. We are told that Mary was a virgin. We are also told that Mary was favored by the Lord. The Lord was with her. There is nothing that indicates the Lord showed favor to Mary because she was especially holy or righteous. There is no indication that Mary had done some extraordinary act of service or ministry to the Lord. She was just Mary, a young woman. And like many young women in Israel, she had hopes and dreams. She was going to be married. But now the angel Gabriel is in her room, saying that she is favored by God and, well, who wouldn’t be a little troubled?
In v.31 Gabriel announces that Mary would conceive in her womb and bear a son who was to be named Jesus. Jesus, or Yeshua, means “the Lord saves.” In v.32 Gabriel continues by saying, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." Then in v.35 Gabriel adds, “the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”
What did Mary understand Gabriel to be saying? I do not think she would have understood Gabriel to be saying that Jesus would be God in the flesh. Rather I believe that Mary would have recognized that Gabriel was saying she would be the mother of the long awaited Messiah. Jesus would be a descendant of David who would ascend to David’s throne. In fact he would reign on David’s throne forever. Way back in 2Sam.7 God promised to establish David’s throne forever. But that promise seemed to have failed. After his son Solomon died, the nation of Israel split into 2 kingdoms, the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. In 722 B.C. the northern kingdom was defeated by Assyria. In 586 B.C. the southern kingdom was defeated by Babylon. Never again would there be a united Jewish nation under its own rule. There has not been a king on the throne since, roughly, 586 B.C.
But here was Gabriel telling Mary that she would be the mother of the next Jewish king who would reign forever. Jesus is the fulfillment of the hopes and dreams of Israel.
But let me trace out another Old Testament theme. When God called Abraham in Gen.12, he made some specific promises to Abraham. He promised to make Abraham the father of a great nation. He also said that all the families of the earth would be blessed through Abraham. The Jews are the descendants of Abraham and they were raised up to be a light of blessing to the nations, a testimony of God’s goodness. But that didn’t happen. Instead of showing the nations what it is like to worship and serve a loving and good God, Israel turned away from God and worshiped idols. Israel became like the pagan nations. But here was Gabriel telling Mary that she would be the mother of the Messiah who would reign forever. And the Messiah would fulfill Israel’s calling. The Messiah would be the source of blessing, salvation to the nations. As we read the Old Testament prophets we learn that all the nations will worship the Messiah.
In Lk.1:46-55 Mary breaks out in poetry. Look at those verses, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
I want to say that Jesus is the King of all kings. He is the Lord or all lords. He was crucified, dead, and buried. He rose from the dead and ascended to the Father and is seated at the Father’s side, reigning until all things are put under his feet. He died for our sins and he rose that we might have his eternal life. He gives us his life that we may begin in this life to live in his kingdom, under his rule forever. Oh there is much more to the gospel story, but for now consider that Jesus is the promised Messiah, God’s anointed Savior and Deliverer. He is not just for the Jews. He has come for Jews and Gentiles. All the nations, all the world is blessed through Jesus, a descendant of Abraham and David. He is the light of the world. Hear the gospel message. Hear the good news. It is for you.
II. SURRENDER YOUR LIFE TO JESUS.
Can you put yourself in Mary’s place? How would you have been feeling? What would you have been thinking? The only indication from the text is that Mary was troubled. “What? I am favored? The Lord is with me?” One gets the impression that Mary was certainly not full of herself. She saw no reason why Gabriel should have been sent to her. But there Gabriel was!
Gabriel tried to assure her that all was well. “Nothing to worry about!” Only there was something to worry about. Mary knew how babies come into being. It seems clear that Mary understood that this pregnancy was not going to come about in the normal way. She realized that Jesus was not going to be the son of Joseph. He was going to be the Son of God! So she asks the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” I imagine you and I would have been thinking the exact same thing. In v.35, Gabriel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy--the Son of God.” This pregnancy was going to come about through an act of God, the Holy Spirit. And then Gabriel gave Mary a sign to verify the message. Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, who was barren has also conceived and is in her 6th month. “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
What Mary said next is profound. In v.38, Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.” Mary was giving consent for God to use her in his great work of redemption. In Jesus Christ, God would take up residence in her body. God would live in her body, veiled in flesh. We know that when a woman is pregnant, her bodily resources are directed towards the nourishment and sustenance of the life growing in her. In giving her consent, Mary threw caution to the wind. What would people think if she turned up pregnant before even being married? Who would believe her story? And what about her hoped-for future with Joseph? Would he believe her?
It would seem to me that Mary’s self-identify was deeply shaped by her faith and trust in God. “I am the servant of the Lord.” Do you see yourself as the servant of the Lord? When are you the servant of the Lord? In what way are you the servant of the Lord? Mary had a heart of surrender to the Lord.
You might say that Mary was the first one to recognize Jesus as her Lord and King. By the way, the second person to recognize Jesus as her Lord and King was Elizabeth. Look at v.42-43. When Mary went to visit Elizabeth, Elizabeth exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”
This past week I was reading Ex.40. In that chapter Moses sets up the tabernacle for the first time. It was quite a process. But once the tabernacle was set up and everything was in place, we read, “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” God’s presence dwelt among his people, Israel. Moses couldn’t enter because the glory of the Lord was too much. But Mary’s heart was prepared as a fit tabernacle for the Lord. How was her heart prepared? She had a humble, surrendered heart.
Just as Mary surrendered her heart to Jesus, so can we. We yield our consent for God to dwell in us, through his Holy Spirit. We can even use Mary’s words as a prayer of surrender and dedication: “Lord, I am your servant. Use me as you wish.” Surrender your life to Jesus.
In 1998, Bill Gaither and Mark Lowry wrote a gospel song called, “Mary Was the First One to Carry the Gospel.” She carried Jesus in her body. She delivered Jesus to the world. Do you carry Jesus in you? Is he your Lord and King? Do you know Jesus? Have you ever entered into a life giving, sin forgiven relationship with him?
In a few moments we will gather to the Lord’s Table. It is at this table where we affirm in a very physical way that Jesus lives in us. Jesus nourishes us with his spiritual, eternal life. The bread and the juice do not give us this life. Jesus gives us his life. The bread and the juice are a symbol of his body and blood given in our behalf, for our sins. If you have never called upon Jesus to forgive you of your sins and to be your Savior and King, then I invite you to do that very thing in the quietness of your own heart.
When I asked Angie to marry me she said, “yes,” and we were married. After we were married I did not continue to ask her to marry me. We began living out the covenant that we entered into on our wedding day. When we call upon Jesus to save us we enter a covenant with God. It is a covenant of salvation and life in the kingdom of God. When I call upon the Lord by faith to save me, I then begin living out the covenant of salvation I have entered into with Jesus. I don’t keep asking Jesus to save me, rather I trust in the salvation he has given to me.
At the Lord’s Table we affirm and renew this covenant of salvation. We are encouraged by the Lord himself who is present with us. Let us come to the Lord’s Table. Amen.