THE BIRTH OF CHRIST FORETOLD
Key Verse 1:38
“‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her.”
This Christmas passage is about a teenage girl, Mary, who was engaged to be married to Joseph. An angel appears and gives her good news of great joy. The annunciation of the birth of the Savior Jesus to this young girl was indeed a marvelous event in history. But to Mary, it involved humility, absolute faith, and obedience to God. And this is her story– a story of devotion to God and to his redemptive history.
Let’s read verses 26 and 27, “In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.” Mary was a simple country girl who had lived her young life in the hills of Nazareth. The young people in her town were innocent and pure-hearted country folk. When the girls accidentally met the boys in the hills or in the market place, they blushed and chuckled and went back home with a bit of a heartache. Mary was one of those teenagers who was engaged to Joseph. Like all the girls her age, Mary had nothing more joyful to think about except her wedding day. When she walked the streets she seemed to be day dreaming and floating above the ground. Indeed she lived in a dream-world. But one day God interrupted Mary’s sweet dream by sending an angel.
Let’s read verses 28 and 29. “The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of a greeting this might be.’” The angel greeted Mary in a most courteous and encouraging way. But surprisingly Mary was greatly troubled at heart. Why? Mary was nothing but a simple country girl. To her own eyes she was far from being highly favored. Mary had nothing in this world to her favor and nothing to live for, other than Joseph and her future as his wife. It was all she had in this world. But to Mary, it was everything. And Mary really needed nothing more. She needed no one’s favor. When the angel extended to Mary God’s favor, suddenly Mary was greatly troubled. Why? Simply because from the Bible’s point of view, almost always, God’s favor to us embodies a change of our own life-plans and purpose to accommodate for God’s plan and purpose for our lives. Thus, Mary’s women’s intuition probably warned her that God’s favor might interfere with her life-plan, particularly her dream of marriage. Therefore, Mary was troubled at his words and wondered what he meant.
Let’s read verses 30 and 31. “But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.’” “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.” God’s favor to Mary was God’s call to mission. More specifically God’s favor to Mary was to become the mother of Jesus. In brief, God’s mission to Mary was to bear the Savior of the world. But this “favor” and “grace” was not without cost. Mary must bear this Savior as a virgin. It was a glorious mission. However, it was a difficult and costly mission. It involved much personal sacrifice on Mary’s part. Mary must become pregnant before marriage. Therefore, Mary might have to give up her wonderful dream of marriage. Painfully, Mary must also give up Joseph since he might never believe her story nor understand her situation. She must endure the scorn of others to her own shame, for her mission involved bearing the pain of shame and punishment. It was indeed too much to ask such a thing of anyone, especially of a teenager like Mary.
God’s favor to Mary was even more costly. The most painful grace in her life was to be the mother of Jesus. Why? Let’s see! Jesus is the glorious Son of God, King of kings and Lord of lords, ruler of the heavens and earth. But before he would be glorified to the right hand of God, Jesus had to undergo much persecution, suffering and finally, death on a cross. But not only would he suffer so, but his mother would witness this agony as well. No mother can bear to see her child suffer. But Mary had to painfully endure watching the life of her beloved son being snuffed out before her very eyes as he hung on a cross. No one could understand Mary’s agony of heart at such a time. But because of God’s great favor, Mary had to bear much suffering as the mother of Jesus.
Let’s read verses 31-33. “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” This was the angel’s message to Mary. The angel told Mary who Jesus is, the King Eternal, and what his kingdom would be like– forever. Why was this truth important for Mary to know? Because without this truth of God in her heart, it would be difficult and almost impossible for Mary to accept such costly grace in her life. Indeed, when we envision the glorious fruit of our obedience to God’s mission, we are then able to bravely bear God’s grace whatever the cost may be.
Let’s read verse 32: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” The world cannot but acknowledge that Jesus is one of the greatest men who ever lived on this earth. People have many reasons to think that our Lord Jesus is great. But Jesus’ true greatness lies in the glorious truth that Jesus is the Son of the Most High God. Jesus is born of God. His origins are not human but divine. All human beings are descendants of Adam. But our Lord Jesus is different. He is the Son of God– conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.
As the Son of God then what does Jesus do? The Bible says, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” (1Cor.15:22) Because of Adam’s sin, all human beings are destined to live in sin and to die in sin . Among all the sons of men, no man has ever been able to deliver us from the tragedy of sin. But Jesus is not a mere man. He is the Son of the Most High God. In him, we can be made alive. And this is how Jesus makes us who are dead to be alive. Jesus first left his divine glory in heaven and came to this world as a man. He lived among us in poverty and shared in our suffering. He shepherded the downtrodden and suffering flock of God. He bore our sin-sickness and the corruption of our hearts. Finally Jesus gave up his life on the cross for the sins of the world. Through his death and resurrection, he forgave us. He delivered us from the power of sin. He set us free from the clutches of death In this way Jesus made us alive, that we who believe in him might enter into a covenant of life with him and live forever in his kingdom.
Not only is Jesus King Eternal, but his kingdom is forever. Let’s read verse 33. “…and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” There is nothing forever in this world. The kingdoms of this planet will all come to an end. Everything will perish. But God did not leave us without hope. He has prepared an Eternal Kingdom to hope for and to be our dwelling place forever. Jesus made us a promise in John 14:2,3, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” Indeed, Jesus’ kingdom is forever and it is our only real hope and our only real home. Without this hope we cannot be happy living in this perishing and uncertain world. How then can we have this hope? We must repent of our false worldly hopes and be born again into the living hope of the Kingdom of God. Jesus then comes to live in our hearts. And where Jesus is, there is the Kingdom of God. When Jesus lives in our hearts, our hearts become part of God’s vast heavenly territory– called the Kingdom of God. And when we have finally put our hope in the kingdom of God, we can then serve God joyfully even if we suffer under God’s costly grace.
What was Mary’s response to God’s call to a painful and costly mission? Let’s read verse 34. “‘How will this be, ‘Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’” Mary did not doubt the angel’s words. She simply wondered how it would happen. So the angel taught her in verse 35 that she would conceive through the Holy Spirit. He also taught her in verse 37 to have faith that nothing is impossible with God. So she replied in verse 38, “I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her.” How could Mary make such a decision of faith to obey God’s calling to a difficult mission?
First, Mary could make such a decision of faith when she saw herself from God’s point of view. She said, “I am the Lord’s servant.” Once Mary saw herself only as an ordinary woman and Joseph’s wife to be. But now she began to see herself with the eyes of God. She was no longer only Joseph’s fiancé. But now, in truth, Mary was indeed the Lord’s servant. This was a great vision of hope to Mary. This new vision gave her a new meaning and purpose to her life. Before this, Mary was destined to be an ordinary housewife with the job of cooking Joseph’s meals and washing his stinky socks. But God had mercy on her and showered her with his marvelous grace. From now on her life would not be ordinary any longer. From now on, she would be a great woman of God with a clear mission to serve God’s purpose and eternal kingdom. Now she was the servant of the Lord. So she confessed with deep gratitude: “I am the Lord’s servant.”
Second, Mary’s obedience was based on the word of God. Look at verse 38b. “May it be to me as you have said.” Mary’s obedience was not based on her feelings, whether she felt she was able to or not. She heard the voice of God calling her to a life of faith and holy mission. And now, regardless of how she felt, she accepted God’s calling. She said, “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Mary had simple faith and obeyed God’s calling according to his word.
This Christmas season, may God help us to remember and worship our Eternal King and Lord Jesus Christ, who created us, who came to save us from ours sins and to give us a living hope in his eternal kingdom. We also learn from Mary how to live in God’s grace. Sometimes, God’s grace is costly, but we must gladly bear it, at whatever the cost. We do this, because we are God’s servants. God bless you. Let’s read our key verse one more time. Verse 38.