Thursday 16 December 2021


Luke 1 v 26/56


This Sunday on the week of Christmas, all our thoughts and prayers of thanksgiving are on, and for, the birth of Jesus.

 If this Gospel message was told as a story in one of our daily newspapers, and so posted on their website, it would receive numerous scornful mocking comments, questioning as to why anyone would believe it.  In fairness, if a daughter or friend came and told you she was pregnant, but had not been intimate with a man, you would reasonably think she was mad or trying to cover up a moral lapse.

 This week let us think of the young Jewish woman Mary, who was honoured by God to be the mother of His Son, and whose name would live on in all history. This was the fulfilment of the prophet Isaiah, who many years earlier in the Old Testament had said, ‘behold a young girl shall conceive and bear a child’. 

 Such was the situation experienced by this young Jewish girl in a remote Israeli village, risking disgrace and shame, and also the loss of her fiancĂ©e. It has to be accepted that the birth of Jesus was unique. God took the initiative, and Jesus was born of a virgin, such is a basic doctrine of the Church.   One day she was visited by the angel Gabriel when she was engaged to Joseph, a descendant in the line of the famous King David.  She was betrothed, which in Jewish law meant the engagement could only be broken by divorce.

 In the past, the Roman Catholic Church has perhaps made too much of Mary’s position, whilst the Protestant Church has made too little. We should keep in mind that until the 20th century, in all the years prior, perhaps even more so when Mary was called on by to accept this call, that it would have been looked upon in society as scandalous. Women were expected to be married before having children, something these days seems unbelievable by many today.

 Mary is at the sixth month of her pregnancy, and Luke was specifying Nazareth was a city of Galilee, which suggests he was writing for people who were not from Palestine.

 The angel Gabriel greeted Mary to create an atmosphere of tranquillity, and telling her she was highly favoured by the Lord who was with her.  Mary was startled. We can assume from this she was a moral woman, who could not understand why had been chosen.  The angel tells her not be afraid, for she had found favour from God.

 She is told she will have a son whom she will call Jesus, and He will be great and be called a son of the Most High God, not the son of Joseph.  All this was fulfilment of an Old Testament prophecy, and that Jesus would rein over a Kingdom of grace and truth, and there would be no end to that Kingdom.

 Mary asks how that can be as she has no husband, but does have faith and believes the angel although she cannot understand.  She is told the Holy Spirit would come upon her, therefore he would be called the Son of God. Mary knew that becoming pregnant would not be easy, for it would expose her to ridicule and criticism, maybe even something much worse, but she depended totally upon God, body and soul.

 The angel told Mary that her relative Elizabeth, who had been barren was then six months pregnant. This was in a sense a miracle, for Elizabeth and Zechariah were of such an age that it was not usual for such to be able to have children. But for God, nothing is impossible, He is able to do all He wishes, and so grants Elizabeth and Zechariah a child after they had given up hope of ever being able to do so.

 Mary decided to visit the home of Elizabeth in the hill country of Judah, where she stayed for three months.

 On arrival the two women greeted each other, and Elizabeth in a loud voice proclaimed how blessed Mary was. Until that time Elizabeth thought this was just a family visit, but now she realised how unique the situation is, and feels she should have been the one visiting Mary.   At the same time Elizabeth felt movement of her own baby.

Elizabeth’s joy inspired Mary to fully recognise she is to be the mother of the Saviour of the world, and spontaneously sings a song, which has been sung at every Evensong in Churches all over the world for centuries since, one of the great hymns of the Church, the Magnificat.  The Lord God is magnified in this song of praise, which is filled with Scripture.

 Mary expressed her glory and rejoiced in being blessed, and how gracious God has been to her in her humility. She readily obeyed God.  There is a significant point made by her, in that she recognises she needs a Saviour, which implies she recognises that only a sinner needs a Saviour, which tends rather to negate some Roman statements about her.  This reflects the words of John  Newton in that wonderful hymn which he wrote, that God saves us by grace.

 Mary knows that all future generations will speak of her, and indeed throughout the ages she has rightfully been praised, and she has brought honour to her sex. 

 Mary told of how God is merciful to those who fear Him, and we should be mindful that whilst God is a God of love and mercy, He is also a God of wrath.  In that respect we should take note of Mary’s words,  ‘He has brought down rulers from their thrones’.   She has a profound view of God, who disputes the worldly values of status and misunderstanding of what it means to be equal.

 She ends her song by singing praise of how God has remained faithful to His chosen people, the Jews, by keeping His promise to Abraham.  Every Jewish boy and girl would know the history of Israel and how God has blessed them.

 Mary then left Elizabeth to return home.

 Mary has raised being a mother to the highest of professions, although now some feminine politicians are anxious to downgrade motherhood and their sex, by trying to equate women on all levels with men.  In the process, some women have demeaned their sex by not only copying men’s excesses, but furthering them.

 When God created the world men were intended to care and provide for the family, and women to be mothers, (primarily but not exclusively)and for that role were endowed with a more tender and caring nature. Now for their own selfish purposes, politicians and social workers want to meddle with gender identities..  We are all equal under God, but are meant to have different roles in life.

 Pope Benedict wisely stated that the future of mankind is at stake, when the understanding of what a family means is challenged through same sex marriage.  He said ‘In the fight for the family, the very notion of what being human really means is being called into question. He spoke of the falseness of gender theories, and of the current attack on the structure of the family made up of father, mother and child.

Mary did not doubt what the angel told her, she was just puzzled, as she might be, as to how this would happen.  It was as if the angel was saying ‘Mary you are thinking as a human being, and humanly you are right, but this is God at work and He shall come upon you with the power of the Holy Spirit, for nothing is impossible for God’. 

 This is why we should have concern for the nation of Israel from which all our teaching emanates.  We worship the God of Israel; we worship a Jewish Saviour; born of a Jewish woman; and are taught from a book written (under the inspiration of God) by Jewish writers.  One day Jesus will return to Jerusalem, the capital city of His chosen people.

 The Israelites constantly sinned, and strayed away from God, but He still looked after them, fed and clothed them, protected and revealed Himself to them.  The Old Testament is the history of the Israelites resisting God’s will, and the New Testament shows God cannot be limited.  

It was|God who sent His Son to prepare the great salvation after His prophets were rejected; it was God who raised His Son from the dead; God who gave teaching on how we should live, and respond to Him.If our Lord was to return now would He be happy about the religious teaching. Would He wonder why we Christians treat our faith in such casual manner rather than the aggressive evangelism of other faiths?

Would He wonder why His Church is being downgraded as its leaders bow meekly to the social activists?  Would He not feel the Church had betrayed Him, by not following the example of Mary, who so readily responded to His call even though she knew she would face all manner of abuse and disdain from those who knew her. Such is the commitment and devotion to God that we find missing in places where it should be readily seen.

As we remember Mary at this season, let us think of the young women of to-day, who so bravely will be having babies, and pray that their maternal experiences will be safe and bring them the joy which the birth of our Lord brought to Mary.











We have in these verses the announcement of the most momentous event that ever happened in the world, the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is a passage for all Christians to read with wonder, love and praise.


The event took place in an unassuming manner in an obscure town of Galilee with a woman in a humble position, in a dwelling place without what the world calls greatness.  God could have chosen for it to be in Jerusalem to the daughter of some local dignity, but chose otherwise.  This should teach us not to favour or treat better someone from a rich family and look down on any person from a poor background.


I was often displeased at the way local politicians or prominent people, who normally were not seen in Church, were given welcome more grandly than to regular men and women, when attending a special service to recognise a funeral or notable occasion. It is well to remember our Lord coming to earth in the most humble circumstances.

There is a relationship to Christ within the reach of all of us, which is available to all who repent and believe.  Jesus said, ’whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother or sister’.


Let us always regard with holiness and faith, all contained in this Scripture, and cast away all doubt and unbelief.  It should be enough to know that the Son of God came into this world by a woman, and we should honour and acknowledge those women who now bear the task of giving birth of children.


Is it not amazing how peoples’ minds reason. Thousands say they will not believe what they cannot understand.  If I should go out on to the car park of this Church and take out a little plastic box, and press a combination of 13 numbers, within seconds I would be speaking to my son in Hong Kong. Yet if I wished to speak face to face, it would take a journey of 13 hours to do so.


I can’t explain how this can happen, and I doubt there is anyone I know who could explain, we take mobile phones for granted.  We watch events as they happen from across the world in a box in our homes and take it for granted. Who can explain how a brown cow, which eats green grass, produces white milk, and yellow butter, yet we eat and drink both. Why on earth if we can accept all the marvels of man, we cannot accept the miracles of God. 


Verse 37 of this morning’s passage, ‘for nothing is impossible with God’. Our minds are not meant to understand all the miracles and mighty deeds of the Lord; the Cross and atonement; the resurrection; the power of the Holy Spirit.  We may not understand the virginal conception, but we accept all these by faith.

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