Luke 1:26-55; 2:1-7
It had been five months since Zechariah had been interrupted at work by the angel Gabriel. He had not been able to speak since then.
The same angel who had visited Zechariah, also visited Mary (26-27).
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, a descendant of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.
The engagement of Mary and Joseph was a legally binding contract. If Joseph had died that year, Mary would have been a widow. God had a wonderful surprise in store for this young woman.
Mary’s first response was fear (28-29).
28 The angel came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one, the Lord is with you!”
29 But she was greatly troubled by his words and began to wonder about the meaning of this greeting.
Many today are confused about the meaning of this greeting as well. They think it is a statement about Mary’s unique qualification to give birth to God’s Son. In fact, it was God’s favor — his grace that qualified Mary. It is that same grace that God offers to us. We have no reason to fear this good news.
Mary had not asked the same question that Zechariah had. She asked how what was predicted was going to happen since she was not in a physical relationship with Joseph yet. The angel’s answer: the Holy Spirit will do this. Mary (in essence) said, “sign me up.” If God is in this, I will sell myself to him to do his will. That is what faith sounds like.
Let’s compare the two angelic announcement stories. Look at what the angel had told Joseph:
“But as he thought about these things, see, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for what has happened to her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you will call his name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:20-21 JDV)
Joseph was told that Jesus would be a savior, but Mary was told that he would be a king. Joseph was encouraged to stay engaged to Mary because the Holy Spirit had been the source of her pregnancy. Mary was encouraged to not fear her situation because her pregnancy was not a disgrace, but a result of her being a recipient of God’s favor. Both had been told to name him Jesus, because he is the one who can rescue, and the one who will reign. He can deliver those who look to him for rescue, and his kingdom is the only one that will last forever.
But Gabriel’s explained that he had good news about Jesus (30-33).
30 So the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God!
31 Listen: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will 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 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will never end.”
The good news of Christmas is Christ himself. He is God’s gift to all of us. Have you opened that present?
Gabriel answered her question and gave evidence for his prophecy (34-37).
34 Mary said to the angel, “How will this be since I have not had sexual relations with a man?”
35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God.
36 “And look, your relative Elizabeth has also become pregnant with a son in her old age — although she was called barren, she is now in her sixth month!
37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Elizabeth was the evidence Gabriel gave to verify his promise. The Jews said that it takes three people to have a baby: the mother, the father, and the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth’s pregnancy in her old age was proof that the Holy Spirit was present in her life. Now, Mary needs to only recognize that the Holy Spirit is all she needs for the miracle to happen.
Mary accepted his word and investigated further (38-45)
38 So Mary said, “Yes, I am a servant of the Lord; let this happen to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
39 In those days Mary got up and went hurriedly into the hill country, to a town of Judah,
40 and entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth.
41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
42 She exclaimed with a loud voice, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child in your womb!
43 And who am I that the mother of my Lord should come and visit me?
44 For the instant the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
45 And blessed is she who believed that what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
John the Baptist’s first testimony of Christ took place while he was still in the uterus. Mary had gone to investigate the evidence that the angel had put forth. She found his words to have been true. The angel had told Zechariah that his son would be filled from the Holy Spirit from his mother’s uterus. Now, Elizabeth proclaims a prophecy coming from him while he is still en utero. She passes on a prophecy that John communicated via a kick.
Mary prophesied and praised God for his blessing (46-55).
46 And Mary said, “My soul exalts the Lord,
47 and my spirit has begun to rejoice in God my Savior,
48 because he has looked upon the humble state of his servant. For from now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 because he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name;
50 from generation to generation he is merciful to those who fear him.
51 He has demonstrated power with his arm; he has scattered those whose pride wells up from the sheer arrogance of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up those of lowly position;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering his mercy,
55 as he promised to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
This Magnificat of Mary was a prophetic word from the LORD about what he has done and is doing. Mary could have chosen to be a criticizing soul or a lamenting soul. She had lots of reasons to be those things. But she chose to be a celebrating soul. She looked beyond the temporary inconvenience and potential shame, and confusion. She chose to believe that God was calling her to a status of permanent blessedness and joy. She took hold of that joy and started celebrating.
Mary blessed the world by giving birth to its Savior (2:1-7)
1 Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus to register all the empire for taxes.
2 This was the first registration, taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
3 Everyone went to his own town to be registered.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David.
5 He went to be registered with Mary, who was promised in marriage to him, and who was expecting a child.
6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.
7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn.
The census was politics at work, but God used it as a means to accomplish his will. She who had been blessed brought forth the blessing. God did not ask her to save the world. He simply called on her to do her part and let him do the rest.
God moved the mind of the emperor to make a royal command, and that was why Joseph went to Bethlehem. And, God sent an angel. And, God moved a prophet to predict it. And, God enabled Joseph and Mary to travel. Many circumstances conspired to bring that young couple to Bethlehem so that Mary could give birth to Jesus at that place, on that day.
As we look back on our lives, we also can see the hand of God at work in the commands of men, and the coincidences of life. He is sovereign and active.