Summary: A short talk given at our December Pensioners' Praise. During the year our theme has been The Promises of God and I was asked to talk about God's promise to Mary.
An Angel is a Messenger of God, and the Messenger said: “Do not be afraid, Mary. You have found favour with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus” (30-31).
If a Messenger from God were to say to me, “Warner, do not be afraid. You have found favour with God and you’re going to be a Granddad …” I think I would be in something of a state. My children are not married, only one of them is barely old enough, and I just don’t feel ready to be a Granddad yet. Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph (1:27) and the Bible is very clear in expressing that she was a virgin. Using King James Bible language Mary had not lain down with, and had not known, any man. She was not married. She was a virgin. Pregnancy was out of the question!
So, what a faith-testing, Pharisee-teasing, family-tension inducing, formational and transforming promise this is. “Mary, you will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus” (1:31).
It seems to me that God entered in to the scandals of the first century, the relationships of the first century, and this ordinary woman’s life in the first century; and in doing so, God shows us that he comes to where we are in all of our testing and troubled situations.
The focus of our Bible Reading and our theme for this year is ‘God’s Promises’. Today our theme is God’s promise to Mary, but I would also like us to think about God’s promises to the world, and God’s promises to us; because Jesus is ‘God with us’.
How wonderful is that? God promised that he would form – inside Mary – ‘God with us’! Fantastic!
For me, religion is mainly about correcting your behaviour in order to live a certain way, in the hope that we can one day be of such exemplary behaviour that we will find favour with God, and so earn a place in his heavenly kingdom. Religion can therefore be an exhausting, stressful, rather uncertain search for God, never being sure if we are good enough for his perfect standards, always knowing that we are sinners.
But here is the beauty of the promise made by God to Mary, the promises of God to his people Israel, and his promises to us. No longer do we have to struggle and strive and stress to reach God’s standards for our lives. No longer do we have to worry whether or not our sins can be forgiven.
Why; because God does not say this: “Hey you. Sort your life out, pull yourself together, heal yourself, fix yourself, obey all of my laws, pray more, go to church more, give more, serve more, deny yourself pleasures more, and then; then you just might be good enough for me. Then you might be able to join me up here.”
No, God does not say that. He has come to us!
In Jesus God has intimately stepped right down into our world. By taking on human flesh, by living a human life, experiencing bereavement and dying a human death, God – in Jesus - experienced everything that we experience. So what a magnificent promise to Mary: “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.”