Summary: Christianity is unique in our belief that God has become one of us. and Mary waste one favoured by God to bring this miracle to birth.
The Incarnation’ as we call it, God becoming a human being, is the fundamental belief that sets us apart from Judaism and all other religious followings.
It really is where the rubber hits the road in terms of the Christian faith.
We Christians are the only people on this earth who believe that God himself became one of us.
We believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
We believe in the Great I Am who spoke to Moses at the burning bush, who parted the sea and led his people out of slavery.
We believe in the God who went before his people in the wilderness as a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day … who chose to reveal himself to the Jewish nation.
We believe in the God who’s glory appeared as a thick cloud … descending over the tabernacle
… who’s holiness shook Mount Sinai, striking the earth with thunder and lightning that made the people tremble.
We believe in the God who is so holy that we can’t look on his face; that the Israelites couldn’t touch the mountain when his glory descended, that Moses’ face shone when he met with the Lord in the tent of meeting.
We believe in the God who is ‘holy, holy, holy’. Who appeared to the prophet Isaiah, who in the Lord’s presence was terrified.
We believe in YHWH, the Great I Am, the one who is so holy that even his name cannot be spoken.
And we share all of this in common with the Jewish people.
But we part company when we open to chapter 1 of Luke’s gospel, because we believe that that same God became a man.
There are many faithful Jews today who would see Jesus as a prophet and teacher … but who would say ‘you can never convince me that the Holy One, the Great God of Israel, would become a human being … a mere creature, a mere man. God is holy and we are not. It is a contradiction in terms for him to become human flesh. Worse than that – it’s extremely offensive. It offends the greatness of our God.’
We often say as Christians that the cross is offensive: because it confronts us with the reality of our sin and our need for salvation. But the notion of sin isn’t offensive to a Jew. The incarnation is offensive. It is blasphemy against God. Indeed it was the crime that Jesus was charged with.
He called himself the Son of God.
It was just as the angel Gabriel said to Mary: “the child to be born will be holy” … do you remember when we looked at Isaiah we learned that holiness isn’t just about moral purity, it’s about ‘godness’, it’s the stuff that makes God God. God alone is holy … Jesus will be holy (i.e. he will be God) and he will be called the Son of God.
So those who follow other religions and spiritual teachings want to say, but aren’t we all sons and daughters of God? To this we say, ‘yes, but we’re not holy. Made in his image, yes, like him, yes, but we were made out of the earth, we are made of flesh … God is made of stuff called ‘holiness’, pure -‘god-ness’. He is different to us. Jesus is holy. Jesus is the eternal Son of God.
It’s hard to imagine what it would be like to be told you were going to give birth to him. When the angel Gabriel greets Mary, the scripture says she is afraid and distressed (she is basically freaking out)
Mary: the ‘Favoured One’
No wonder, his opening line is, ‘Greetings favoured one! The Lord is with you. Do not be afraid for you have found favour with God’ (Lk 1:28-30). We might think, ‘aw, that’s nice, God favours you (i.e. you’re special)!’
But not to a young Jewish girl, that’s not nice, that’s terrifying.
This phrase, ‘you have found favour with God’ is a Jewish expression used a number of times in the Old Testament. It’s literal meaning is, ‘You have found grace beside God ’ (i.e. in other words, God’s grace has come beside you) … and Mary would probably have known from the scriptures, that this saying means serious business. It means the she has been specially blessed but also specially chosen.
Noah : Favoured by God
- The first mention - Gen 6.8 … when God was sorry that he made humankind on the earth … but Noah found favour in the sight of the Lord (which was good news, except he had to build an ark)
- Abraham, Joseph, Moses and Gideon
So being one of God’s favourites is both a blessing and a calling. It means that something serious is going to be asked of you …