Wednesday 13 December 2023


Luke 1 v 26/56

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

The story we are looking at is the greatest ever told, the birth of Jesus. The Saviour.  It is a story telling of an extraordinary event, unique and once in all history.

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.

Our passage opens at verse 26, where it is stated, In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favoured woman! The Lord is with you

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. 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.

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 deduct 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,.  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, not Joseph.  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 H 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.

 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’.  God took the initiative, and Jesus was born of a virgin.  But such was the faith and courage of that young woman, that she trusted God, and so became the most famous woman in all history, the most blessed of women.

God chooses ordinary and lowly people to do His work, so that they will remain faithful and dependent on Him, and not be full of themselves and feel self- important.  We should each seek to find out what God wants us to do, and do it.

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  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.

The gospel passage opens with Mary, deciding to go seventy miles to visit her elderly cousin Elizabeth, whom she had been told was also pregnant in her old age.

On arrival the two women greeted each other, and Elizabeth in a loud voice proclaims 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, inspires 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, the Magnificat.  The Lord God is magnified in this song of praise, which is filled with Scripture.

Mary expresses her glory and rejoices 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 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 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.

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 China.. Yet if I wished to speak face to face, it would take a journey of 13 hours to do so.

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.

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?  After staying three months, Mary returned to her own home.

 Matthew and Luke are trustworthy. The evidence that they are giving you are facts -

  not myths. 

 There are depths which are too deep for us to fully comprehend; be content to believe with reverent minds, and not speculate that which we do not understand.  There are many things we do not understand, but fully accept without hesitation, by faith..

 How is it by holding a small plastic box without any outer connection, but by pressing a combination of numbers you can speak within seconds to someone on the other side of the world. Or by turning a switch on a television set in a room, you can watch an event in any part of the world as it happens. .How can a brown cow eat green grass and produce white milk? We cannot understand such things, but we still accept them without further thought. Yet we don't accept God does wonderful things; member the words of Mary, with God, all things are possible.

It is by faith that, what we cannot see or words which cannot prove, we become true followers of our Lord, and millions of very clever men and women who have truly believed, have been prepared to go to the uttermost parts of the world and live hard lives, in order to take the gospel to those who have not heard

 People will sing carols, and over eat and drink and spend more money than they can afford; pop groups will sing of ‘chris.-ee-mus’,without ever giving a thought as to why it is-- Christmas. 

 All very well Harry Belafonte telling us we shall live for ever more because of Christmas Day, when in fact we shall live for evermore because of what this baby Jesus went on to do on the Cross.

  Above all trust in God and let this Christmas be one in which we remember the person it is all about—

The Lord Jesus Christ…

(A commentary will follow)

No comments:

Post a Comment