Summary: There are two gifts this Christmas waiting to be given—the gift of Jesus packaged for you that you must receive and the gift of yourself that God is waiting for you to give.
26. Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth,
27. to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
28. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”
29. But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was.
30. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.
31. “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.
32. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David;
33. and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
34. Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
35. The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.
36. “And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month.
37. “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
38. And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her
New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).
A God Who Gives
Today let’s 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. 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 summed up 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 upend 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 intimate 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.”