Summary: The same angel gives the same basic message to Zechariah and Mary. Zechariah reacts with skepticism while Mary responds with calm acceptance. Why the difference?
OPEN: I recently ran across an article that gave some of the signs of the Christmas season:
- A toy store advertised: “Ho, ho, ho spoken here.”
- In a bridal boutique sign declared: “Marry Christmas.”
- Outside a church – this proclamation: “The original Christmas Club.”
- From a department store: “Big pre-Christmas sale. Come in and mangle with the crowd.”
- In a Texas jewelry store was this offer: “Diamond tiaras: $70,000. Three for $200,000.
- A reducing salon warned: “24 Shaping Days until Christmas.”
- In a stationery store was this come on: “For the man who has everything: A calendar to remind him when payments are due.”
- And a sign in a department store: “Make this Christmas one you will not soon forget – charge everything!”
APPLY: There are certain things we’ve come expect at this time of year and, advertising of this nature, (while unique) is part of the season. It is part of what we expect.
Did you know that until the 1930’s Thanksgiving was actually celebrated on November 30th? It’s true. At that time, the country was struggling with the great depression, and FDR sought to stimulate the economy by setting the Holiday back a week in order to allow for a longer period for people to buy Christmas presents between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Ever since that time, advertising has been a pervasive part of the holiday season. In fact, I’ve noticed that the push for advertising Christmas buying has sometimes even begun as early as October - right after Halloween.
AND SO, while we may not appreciate it, Christmas advertising has become part of what we expect during this season.
BUT perhaps that’s only right - since the original Christmas began with an advertisement. A promise of a new thing. A proclamation that all men would want what God was going to offer.
And this proclamation - this promise given by an angel to Mary - was expected.
Notice in our text that Mary doesn’t react to Gabriel’s announcement like Zechariah did. When Gabriel told Zechariah that he and his aged wife are about to have a child, Zechariah literally looked Gabriel dead in eye & said something like: “You’ve got to be kidding.” And the angel rebuked Zechariah for his unbelief.
BUT when Gabriel gave his message of the child’s birth to Mary she responds: "I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said." Luke 1:38. Instead of doubt or skepticism Mary responds almost calmly: “Ok. I’m God’s servant & whatever God wants…that’s what I’ll do.”
I. Why the contrast?
Why would nearly the same exact promise from exactly the same angel cause Zechariah to be skeptical but cause Mary to be quietly accepting?
(Pause) Well, possibly because the promise to Mary was… almost expected. Every mother in Judea was expecting and hoping that the promise made to Mary would be made to them. Ever since Adam & Eve sinned in the Garden by taking of the forbidden fruit, there was an expectation that the Messiah would come AND that He would be the offspring of a woman.
In Genesis 3:14-15 we’re told: “So the LORD God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.’”
The prophet Micah picked up on that theme when he wrote: Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. (Micah 5:3) In other words, the restoration of Israel’s power was seen as tied to the birth of a son by some future woman.
And Mary had as much (if not more) reason to believe that she could be the mother of that Messiah, the mother of the promised deliverer of her people.
You see, the Jews knew that according to the Old Testament, the Messiah had to be born of a specific royal ancestry.
· They knew the promised one would be a descendent of Abraham
(God promised Abraham) "And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice." Genesis 22:18
· They knew that He would be descended from the tribe of Judah
"The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his." Genesis 49:10
· AND that He’d be of the line of David