Summary: This sermon deals with what Mary may not have understood about the birth of Christ. This sermon also begins our Christmas season.
The Christmas story is well known to almost everybody in America, whether they claim to be Christian, atheist, or of some other belief. There was a woman named Mary who became pregnant, without the assistance of a human man, and she gave birth to a baby whom she named Jesus.
And the story is not a simple one in terms of the spiritual dynamics and theology involved. But it is told in a remarkably humble, and simple manner that allows anybody to understand it.
The first thing I find interesting is that there was no fuss being made over Mary in her hometown. This wasn’t a 30-year-old woman walking around with her husband, proudly proclaiming her pregnancy.
Girls were betrothed in marriage in their middle teens in those days. Mary was a young, innocent teenager walking around; pregnant by a means she could not understand or explain. I am sure she was glad that there was not a lot of notoriety in her town.
Perhaps this has something to do with why Mary joined Joseph on their pilgrimage to Jerusalem to participate in the census. By law, Mary wasn’t required to go. Because she’s betrothed to Joseph and with child, she could have stayed home and be cared for by family and friends.
But perhaps the rough 80-mile journey to Jerusalem offered her more solace and peace than the short walks around town with everyone talking behind her back.
Those had to be difficult days for Mary. She was pregnant. She knew how, but I don’t think she could have really understood. She knew she was pregnant. She knew the baby would be a boy. And she knew he would be quite special. But did she understand any of it?
I think that what Mary did not understand parallels what we do not understand today. Let me explain.
When Gabriel appears to Mary, he has to calm her by telling her not to be afraid. We see angels appearing on TV shows, but in reality, seeing a true angel of the Lord can be a frightening experience, and in many cases it is often a cataclysmic moment in someone’s life. So, we can start to see how Mary may have been frightened when she saw Gabriel.
In the book of LUKE 1:30-37, Gabriel tells Mary,
"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. 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."
Mary responded by saying "How will this be, since I am a virgin?"
The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”
I think that Mary knew this baby would be a very special baby of God, but I don’t think she knew exactly who Jesus would become. She may have had a hint to His special future, but again, I don’t think she could have fully comprehended the reality of the Creator recreating himself in the form of a human, and then becoming this life-transforming redeemer who works from people’s hearts and souls.
Again, let’s go back to Mary’s encounter with Gabriel. He tells her that God will “give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign… forever; his kingdom will never end.” Reign forever? How is Mary supposed to understand what that means? Oh sure, some of you get it, but you’ve already finished the book. You know how the story ends. In Mary’s day, the book wasn’t even written yet, so she had no idea how this would play out.
The word “Messiah” was used in LUKE for others who discovered the Christ-child. So, in those days there were only three major views of what a Messiah would be. The first was of a Military Messiah; someone who would come and conquer all of Israel’s enemies while sitting on the throne of David. Perhaps Mary and Joseph expected their Son to be the new king of Israel.
The second view was that of a political leader; not like the politicians of today, but political in the way that Moses addressed the Pharaoh – demanding freedom for Israel. Was it possible that they pictured their Son to be this type of Messiah?