Text: Luke 1:26-38
Proposition: The wonder of Christ is wrapped in detail, implanted in wonder and tied together with the impossible.
Introduction: It was early spring, the snow had gone and everywhere was the drab brown of winter killed land. A passenger on a bus travelling across Saskatchewan began to catch the attention of his fellow passengers. He was so overcome by everything he saw that every few moments he was heard to say, ‘Wonderful !’ or ‘Incredible !’. The passing scenery, the faces of the people in the towns, even the smallest details drew out exclamations of awe. Finally a person sitting just behind him, overcome by curiosity, asked, “How is it that the rest of us are worn out with this monotonous trip while you are having the time of your life?” He grinned back and said, “Until a few days ago I was a blind man, but now for the first time in my life I can see and what is ordinary to the rest of you, is out of this world to me.”
I wonder if the details of the Christmas story can sometimes be like that to us, an all too familiar landscape of angels, shepherds, mangers and a tiny new born child. It can be a landscape that in its familiarity has lost its wonder. So look at it again, with new eyes, see the incredible, see the Christ. It’s in Luke 1:26 -38.
I. There is Wonder in the Details.
The coming of Christ was a precision event, perfectly timed, accurately plotted on the map, strategically aimed at specific individuals and carried out by the highest of God’s agents. When we read the account, it presents detail that prompts all kinds of questions. It tells us that it was the angel Gabriel who came and spoke to Mary, yet nowhere in this account does Gabriel tell Mary his name. Did the writer of this Gospel, the apostle Luke, interview Mary and conclude that her description of the angel was similar to what Zacharias’ had just experienced and thus it must be the angel Gabriel? Possibly. Did Luke, the only Gentile apostle, know of the events recorded in the Book of Danial where it declares it was Gabriel who was used to foretell the timing and coming of the Messiah in 550 BC? The only thing that we can conclude with certainty is that the detail of Gabriel’s name is there to point us to the importance of what is being revealed. This highest of angels brought the highest of messages. How humbling to think that the Christ who was not only there when this angel was created but Who created Gabriel and whom Jesus probably named, this Gabriel is now announcing the birth and name of Jesus. The birth of Christ is wrapped in such detail that it points to wonder.
II. There Is Wonder in the Method.
Have a look at verse 28, “And coming in, he said to her, “Rejoice highly favored one! The Lord is with you, blessed are you among women.” Mary sees Gabriel and she hears a description of herself that seems too good. ‘Highly favored, the Lord is with you, blessed are you’, it seems to Mary to be too wonderful. It says she was greatly troubled and was more consumed with what had just been said to her than who it was that said it. I wonder if Mary was thinking that she was about to die, that this was some sort death announcement. Gabriel quickly tells her she has found favor with God, that word favor is ‘charis’, sometimes translated ‘grace’. He tells her three things about herself: she will conceive, she will have a son and she will call Him Jesus, literally meaning “Jehovah is Salvation”. It is great grace, highly favored one, that is conferred upon Mary, but how great she couldn’t even begin to imagine. Gabriel then tells her five things about this child:
- He shall be great… great not in appearance nor wealth nor popularity. It is the Greek word ‘megas’ and it refers to Him being great in rank, great in authority and in what He will do with that authority.
- He shall be called Son of the Highest… the description of His Father, it points to His deity.
- He shall receive the throne of David His father… this second description is of His earthly line, it points to not only to His humanity but to Him being the fulfillment of a prophecy made 1000 years before to King David in 2 Samuel 7.
- He shall reign over the house of Jacob …this Jesus shall reign over the house of Jacob, a reference to Israel but also to all the nations of the earth blessed by the promise of God to Abraham.
- He shall reign forever… the duration of His reign never ends just as those who are in it because of Him will also experience it, as ‘forever’, ‘Eternal’.
As amazing as this announcement is, consider Mary’s reply in verse 34. She does not query the details, she does not ask for proof… she asks, “How can this be since I am still a virgin?” What is Mary really saying here? She was after all betrothed to Joseph and that would logically be how she would have a child. She seems to be asking two things:
1.Who will be the father of this miraculous Son?
2.When will this happen?
Both of these questions point us to the faith that has been awakened in Mary through the outpouring of God’s grace upon her. She sees the depth of what is being said, she understands at a level that is deeper than she would have without grace. She is in wonder of what is about to occur. Thus the angel answers her questions… the father will not be of humanity but will instead be experienced as the power of the Most High overshadowing you, perhaps literally the shadow or cloud of God’s presence coming over you. The father of this royal and miraculous Son will be God Himself as His Spirit moves in the power of creation in your womb. When will this occur? Soon. We can conclude that just after Gabriel departs, this occurs. “Soon and very soon we shall see the King.” Gabriel’s whole purpose in coming was to prepare Mary for what was imminent. This done, he departs and she experiences the wonder of the power of the Holy Spirit overshadowing her. You could say that the wonder of Christ was implanted as much in Mary’s heart as He was in her womb.
III. The Wonder of Christ is Tied Together With the Impossible.
There are at least three accounts of women in the Bible who were unable to have children, and as time progressed, this inability was sealed in the diminished capacities of an older body. What is amazing about each of these women is that they experienced a conception with their husbands that was so far past the boundary of probability as to be called a miracle. Sarah, wife of Abraham, the Shunammite woman who was a friend of Elisha and Elizabeth, wife of Zacharias, all experienced a miraculous conception. You could say that the impossible had occurred, it was a miracle upon the miracle of birth itself.
Is it possible that every one of these women was a picture or type of who Mary was to be? Was the event of their miraculous conception but a faint shadow of the greater conception that Mary would experience? The wonder of Christ is often tied together with the impossible, certainly God had that intention when Gabriel confirms his words with the reference to Elizabeth being pregnant and even now in her sixth month. But there are really so many things that were impossible that are tied to the wonder of Christ…the star that brought the Magi, it was a star that was so unusual to these star gazers that they literally followed its’ course for weeks or even months and came to the specific region where Christ was born. The impossible fulfillment of prophecy so extensive that it would take hours to review, the impossible preservation of Mary’s marriage by an angel in a dream to her betrothed husband. The impossible was what God overcame again and again in the wonder of Christ. He overcame laws of gravity, laws of matter, laws of death on the cross and the laws of sin in mankind.
Then there is the impossibility of how Christ introduced by grace the existence of a faith into your heart that made you take a second look at Him. You too it would seem are a “highly favored one”. That same word for highly favored is used in another place in Scripture, it’s in Ephesians 1:6 “to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” God favored us with faith, an interest which became a hunger to know more about God. The only thing that could satisfy that appetite was the truth of the Word of God, Scripture itself. Then the impossible happened and you called out to Him to forgive you, to forgive your sin and to be the Savior of your soul... and He did! This is the present of God to you this Christmas, the wonder of Christ. The wonder of Christ is wrapped in detail, implanted in wonder and tied together with the impossible. By grace and through faith let your eyes be opened and begin to see that which is ordinary to so many as being out of this world to you. It is an appropriate awe.