Sermon on Luke 1:26-38
Text: In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 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, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on 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. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Grace is one of the most precious words in the Christian vocabulary. It really means “God’s undeserved love.” Sometimes we get so accustomed to using that word that we forget the true meaning of the word. Sometimes we fail to fully appreciate the depth and richness of the meaning of grace. That seems so odd for us who love to sing, “By grace I’m saved. Grace free and boundless.” This morning in our text we see God’s grace in action. THE GIFT OF GOD’S GRACE. 1. Grace That Sought, 2. Grace That Sent A Savior, and 3. Grace That Moves To Service.
Our text begins with the words, “In the sixth month.” Six months prior to our text God sent the angel, Gabriel, to give Zechariah, a priest, some wonderful news. He and his wife, Elizabeth, would have a son, whom they would name John. He was to be the forerunner of the promised Messiah. Now six months later, God had another task for Gabriel. He was sent to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.” (Verses 26&27) Gabriel was sent to a small village in northern Palestine.
As he entered the house where Mary was, he greeted her: “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (Verse 28) When Mary heard this, we are told that she “was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.” (Verse 29) As is often the case in the Bible, when a sinful human being comes into the presence of something that is holy, she was filled with fear. In addition to this, she was trying to figure out just what kind of greeting this was. What did the angel mean?
But while Mary’s mind is racing, Gabriel brings comforting words of grace and peace. Not only does he tell her to stop fearing, but he also gives her the reason she need not fear: “You have found favor with God.” (Verse 30) God had not sent the angel as an instrument of punishment. Rather, he was kindly disposed toward her. She did not need to fear, because God loved her.
On this background, the angel Gabriel brings an astounding message: “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.” (Verse 31) Later we are told that this child would be the Son of God. God had chosen Mary for a special task. She was to give birth to the Savior of the world. What special favor was being showered upon Mary.
Before we go any farther, we would do well to remind ourselves that it was nothing special in Mary that caused God to choose her. It wasn’t as if she lived in a populous, bustling city. She lived in the little village of Nazareth. It hardly had a first-rate reputation. Mary was not royalty, although she was a descendant of King David. She was a simple peasant girl. Nor was Mary about to marry a great, influential man. She was engaged to a carpenter named Joseph. There really was nothing that stood Mary above others. She, too, was a sinner and needed a Savior.
Yet, in grace, God chose Mary to play a very important role in the world’s salvation. She was to give birth to the Savior. When you get down to it, Mary’s being chosen to be the mother is very similar to our being chosen to be children of God. There is no one that God chose because of their merit. As Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 1:26, “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.” It wasn’t as if God looked for the influential movers and shakers to be his. But, more than that, it wasn’t as if any of us deserved it. All of us are sinners, who were in desperate need of a Savior. God didn’t choose us because we were better than the others. In God’s sight, all sin is equaling condemning. Yet, in his grace, he chose us to be his own, without any merit or worthiness on our part.
God further showed his grace by fulfilling the promise he had made to send a Savior and a King. The angel Gabriel described that child that would be born of Mary. He says, “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 Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Verses 32&33) Gabriel is referring to the prophecy that God had made to David. David has asked that he be allowed to build a temple for the Lord. But the Lord told him that he would not be the one to build the temple. However, the Lord made a promise that one of his descendants would come who would reign forever. He was pointing ahead to the promised coming Savior.
Gabriel also said that he would “reign over the house of Jacob.” (Verse 33) This does not refer only to the physical descendants of Jacob, but rather the spiritual descendants of Jacob, that is to say, those who are one in the faith. Here Mary saw God’s grace in action as she saw the fulfillment of his promises to send a Savior and a King who would reign forever.
We, too, have seen God’s grace in action as he fulfilled all the promises he made. God promised to send a Savior into the world. Later today and tomorrow we will celebrate his birth. But just as important as the celebration of his birth is the fulfillment of the promise that God would send a Savior. God told us that he would send someone to take our place. He would be our Substitute. We recall the words of Isaiah 53: “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) God kept that promise in the person of Jesus Christ. He was pierced for us. Nails, thorns, and spear pierced his skin. He was punished so that we might have peace, the peace that comes from knowing that our sins are forgiven. The fulfillment of these promises is an example of God’s grace, for he could have left us to stand the punishment of every sin that we have ever committed. But, in his grace, he kept his promise and sent a Savior to free us from the bondage of our sins. Mary’s son was our Savior.
As Mary heard these words of promise, she was confused. She asked, “How will this be since I am a virgin?” (verse 34) Mary was not doubting Gabriel’s words. She was just making note that there were some biological facts that needed to be solved. The angel replied. “The Holy Spirit will come on 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.” (verse 35) Gabriel told her that the Holy Spirit would in a miraculous way create life in her womb. This fact is important because our Savior had to be both God and man. He had to be God so that he could keep the law perfectly and so that his death would count for all people. He had to be man so that he was under obligation to the law and could die.
One might well imagine that Mary would want a fuller explanation, a few more of the details spelled out. But, instead, we hear Mary say, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” (verse 38) Rather than all sorts of questions, she believed God’s promises. This, too, is an act of God’s grace. God created a faith in her heart that accepts as true what the mind cannot reason out. What Mary was not able to fathom with her understanding, she accepted as true because God had said.
So, also, it is an act of God’s grace that any of us have been brought to believe the words of God. There are many things in the Bible that do not make sense to our human reasoning. For example, the idea of a virgin giving birth goes beyond our ability to understand. Yet, God makes it very clear that this is true. At those times when we do not understand, may God grant us his grace that we might believe what he tells us. It is purely by God’s grace that we believe any of his promises.
We also would do well to imitate Mary’s response to what appeared to be impossible. So often when God asks us to do something that is hard for us to understand or reason, we sit and ask “Why? How will this turn out?” We want all the details and expected results before we enter a situation. But God doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes he places us in situations without any explanation. May we learn from Mary’s response. “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” God’s grace will see us through whatever situations might arise.
This morning we have seen the gift of God’s grace in action. It is my prayer that we have all again learned to appreciate God’s grace in our lives. Just as, in grace, God chose Mary to be the mother of his Son, so also, in grace God has chosen you to be his child, without any merit or worthiness on your part. In grace, God fulfilled his promise to send a Savior and a King. He is our Lord Jesus Christ. In grace, God led Mary to believe his promise. So also, in grace, he has led us to believe many things. God’s grace gave us the greatest gift of all: His Son, our Savior.
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