Summary: The Christmas narrative is in danger of being relegated to a sweet story that is just read once a year. Some of us have heard it so much that we’re no longer moved by the magnitude of the Majesty becoming a man. We must never forget that this is holy hi
A God Who Gives
As we prepare for Christmas, sometimes I wonder if we have allowed the Savior to be stolen from our celebrations. We’ve sterilized the spiritual and been inoculated by the familiarity of the nativity. “Merry Christmas” has been replaced with “Happy Holidays.” Have you noticed that, “Are you ready for Christmas?” is often code for, “Do you have all your shopping done?” It’s so easy to walk right past the manger with our arms full of gifts, isn’t it?
Did you hear about the middle school in New Jersey that canceled a field trip to a performance of “A Christmas Carol” because some might be offended by the play’s Christian themes? As columnist Cal Thomas points out, this is not really even a Christian story, though it does contain elements of charity, kindness and good will. Amazingly, instead of allowing the students to see this classic Dickens’ presentation, they went to the “Great Railroad Race,” a play that promotes diversity. Thomas writes, “Does it teach tolerance if we melt down Christmas…into a single meaningless ‘holiday’? (www.tmsfeatures.com: 12/9/02).
Related to this, an editorial appeared in Tuesday’s Chicago Tribune which sums up how our culture’s obsession with political correctness has gutted the greatness of Christmas: “Now that December is here, I’m reminded [that] the most taboo word in our country is…‘Christmas.’ It’s amusing watching people on the TV news shows talking about Christmas but going through verbal gymnastics to avoid saying the word…even the Santa’s with kettles greet you with ‘Happy Holidays.’ When they say, ‘Merry Christmas,’ I’ll give a donation” (Chicago Tribune, 12/12/02).
I want to suggest this morning that if we want to have a Merry Christmas, we must first understand Mary’s Christmas. If you have your Bible, please turn to Luke 1, beginning in verse 26. We’re going to walk through a few verses on our way to the manger and then we’re going to unwrap some of the words of Christmas by focusing on God’s gifts to Mary.
During this three-part series that will conclude on Christmas Eve, I want us to rediscover the reverence of the Incarnation because the whole superstructure of Christianity rests on the reality of Christmas. The word “incarnation” literally means the act of assuming flesh, whereby the Son of God voluntarily assumed a human body and nature. Don Skinner put it this way: “God did not send Christ to us; God came to us in Christ.” Jesus is fully God and fully man, as we will see in our passage today. A theologian described the incarnation with these words: “…God must be able to come over to our side without leaving his own ‘side.’”
Let’s see how God came over to our side. Let me say at the beginning that the Christmas narrative is in danger of being relegated to a sweet story that is just read once a year. Some of us have heard it so much that we’re no longer moved by the magnitude of the Majesty becoming a man. We must never forget that this is holy history that should be approached with awe and astonishment. The astronaut James Erwin, who traveled to the moon, experienced things that you and I never will. And yet, he never got over the crux of Christmas when he said, “There’s something more important than man walking on the moon, and that is God, walking on the earth.”
The Birth Announcement
As we pick up the story in verses 26-30, we’re let in on an angelic encounter between Mary and the angel Gabriel as she receives a birth announcement that will rock her life and change the trajectory of human history.
· “In the sixth month…” refers to Elizabeth being six months pregnant with John the Baptist.
· “…God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee…” Gabriel was a “big gun” angel, sent by God to make life-changing announcements. The region of Galilee was not a politically correct choice. Judea was in the heart of Israel, while Galilee was up in the hills, and a bit backward. Nazareth was a surprising choice because it was filled with corruption and immorality. In John 1:46, Nathaniel summed up its reputation: “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”
“…To a virgin…” The town of Nazareth was small and the womb that was to carry the greatest of all treasures was not that of a princess but of a young peasant virgin. Verse 27 mentions that fact twice. In verse 34, after hearing what was going to happen to her, Mary herself poses the question, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” The Greek word means that she had never had sexual relations with anyone.
Talk show host Larry King was once asked the question, “If you could select any one person across all of history to interview, who would it be?” King answered by saying that he would like to sit down and talk with Jesus Christ: “I would like to ask him if he was indeed virgin-born. The answer to that question would define history for me.” There is no doubt that Jesus was born of a virgin and that He alone has defined history. And this was not just something thought of at the last minute. It was prophesied over 500 years earlier in Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” We’ll talk more about the implications of “Immanuel” next week.