The Second Sunday of Advent December 4, 2011
1 Peter 2:4-10
62, 645(1-2,4-5), 702 (TLH alt. 58), 55(2-4)
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. “And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. “Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. “For with God nothing will be impossible.” Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
In Christ Jesus, the Son of God and Mary’s Son, dear fellow-redeemed:
Do you want the good news or the bad news first? Your answer to that question will probably depend upon the circumstances and what you assume the good news or bad news to be. Bad news most generally news deals with a loss, a disappointment, tragedy and other such things. Good news often involves receiving something, or an announcement that brings joy to ourselves and others. news that announces a blessing or joy to ourselves or others.
The good news that we have through Jesus is the best news we could possibly receive because it is news of life, forgiveness, and salvation. This Good News is so good that it actually erases the worst bad news—we are sinners condemned to eternal death, and provides comfort in times of other bad news—the sorrows of this life.
This exceedingly good news is found in God’s Word. You have been chosen to receive the blessings of the Gospel even as Mary was chosen to be the mother of the Savior who would bring those blessings to us.
Through the remaining weeks of Advent we will consider angel messages leading up to Christmas. Today we consider Gabriel’s message to Mary: “YOU ARE CHOSEN.” As we consider the angel’s message we will find five distinct miracles of God’s grace.
The first miracle in the angel’s message is this: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb… [vv.28-31]
The first miracle was that Mary would have a child. Mary was a virgin. She was betrothed to Joseph which meant more than engagement means today, but they had not yet begun living together as husband and wife. There was no biological way that Mary could be having a child; and yet, the angel’s message was: “You are going to conceive.” Mary knew she was a virgin. Mary knew there was no physical way she would conceive and give birth; but she was chosen to be the beneficiary of this miracle which would allow her to have a child without having sexual relations with a man.
Sadly, there are those in our world today, as there have been for centuries, who deny what seems impossible to human reason. It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever for a virgin to give birth to a child, so human reason concludes that this can’t be true. Surely, Mary was pregnant then by another man—perhaps not Joseph, perhaps a Roman soldier, maybe someone she met someplace else—but (reason says) it could not be that she was truly a virgin! However, that was God’s message through the angel. Mary was a virgin, she would conceive, and that was a miracle.
This miracle is highly important to the truth of our salvation. It is an important truth because God had prophesied through Isaiah, “Behold! The virgin shall conceive and bear a Son…” (Isaiah 7:14). In order for God to be faithful, the Savior needed to be born from a virgin mother. In order for a Savior to truly be a Savior he could not be born of two human parents for then He would be flesh born of flesh (cf. John 3:6) and a sinner just like the rest of us. A fellow sinner can in no way save anyone from his sins. But, conceived by the Holy Spirit, Jesus is true God and thus holy and our Savior from sin.
Miracle two comes to light when the angel said, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” [vv.31-34]
We know that Mary was a faithful child of God, in part from her poetic praise in the home of Elizabeth (cf. Luke 1:46ff) which is made up largely of Old Testament quotations. As a faithful child of God, Mary would have understood these words of the angel to refer to something God had promised centuries before to King David. God told King David: “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:12-16).
This promise of God to David actually involved two of David’s descendants and two future kings. One was David’s son, Solomon. Solomon who would inherit the kingdom and would reign, but he would fall away from faith and would be chastened by God as God had said. There was no way that Solomon’s reign and his throne were going to last forever, so God’s promise to David that a king would sit on the throne and rule forever had to involve more than just Solomon. In truth, there is no earthly kingdom that will stand forever no matter how strong it is. Every earthly nation will eventually crumble into nothing.
The miracle is that there would be a descendent of David who would indeed live and reign forever. That descendant of David would be the Savior. He would come to the earth, not to establish an earthly kingdom, not to establish government and prosperity in a national sense; but He would come and reign over the house of David in a kingdom that would not have any end.
This King would come and rule in the hearts of those who put their trust in Him. The angel’s message spoke of the miracle concerning One who would come and conquer our soul’s enemies, the One who would come and be a king who would destroy the works of the Devil and provide rescue for sinners from Hell and death. That promised One, that descendant of David, was none other than the Messiah—the Savior of all sinners.
The angel’s message to Mary was, “This promised Messiah is coming, the promises will be fulfilled, salvation is at hand, and you—Mary—are chosen to be the mother of this Savior. You will name your son Jesus, which means “Savior,” because He will save His people from their sins.
Miracle three: Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. [vv.34-35]
With these words the angel Gabriel describes what we know as the incarnation—the miracle of the eternal son of God becoming man. It is a miracle that goes far beyond our capabilities and reason, and it is a miracle that is clearly tied to the first two miracles we have considered.
Mary did not doubt the angel’s message in the same way that Zacharias had doubted when Gabriel announced the birth of John. Mary was not doubting the angel’s words, rather she was asking how this would take place because “I know that from a physical perspective that I will not give birth to a son.”
The angel described the miracle of miracles. The Son of God would take on human flesh and blood. The Holy Spirit would come to Mary and conceive in her womb the beginning of a child that would be the eternal Son of God but with flesh and blood growing as any other human being. How could the eternal son of God—without beginning and without end, with all power and glory—be brought into and combined with human flesh in one person? It is a miracle beyond comprehension! That miracle took place in Mary’s womb and grew to be our Savior, Jesus.
The miracle of the incarnation would lead to salvation for sinners and that salvation itself is miracle four. Mary was a sinner just like you and I. Nevertheless, the angel’s message was: “You Mary, are chosen to be the mother of that incarnate Son of God.” How can that be? How could the holy Son of God be born of a sinner? How could God do this for sinners such as Mary and the others of her day and for us? It is a miracle of God’s grace!
We have a beginning hint of this miracle in the angel’s greeting to Mary. When the angel first appeared he said, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women…” and a little later Gabriel told Mary, “…you have found favor with God.” [vv.28ff] None of these descriptions of Mary naturally fits a sinner. Yes, she was blessed by being the mother of Jesus, but her greatest blessing was that she was going to be saved with all sinners! She was able to be blessed and find favor with God, not on her merit and not because of her holiness, but by God’s grace. Mary would find blessedness and favor with God because the Son she would bear would be her Savior as well as ours. In her praise in Elizabeth’s home, Mary said: “…My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47).
It was a miracle for Mary that this Savior to whom she would give birth would also die on the cross for her sins and wash those sins away. It was a miracle that God would send His Son to be the Savior and would actually redeem the one from whom He was born. “Mary, you are chosen,” the angel Gabriel said, “to give birth to this Savior who will also redeem you and give you eternal life.”
Now we come to miracle five which is that you and I are also chosen. Whether it is Mary, chosen to give birth to the Savior, or Abraham, chosen centuries before to be the ancestor of the Savior, or you and I chosen to be children of God—in all cases the choice is God’s by grace. He has chosen you and made you His own purely out of His love.
Lest we think that this is not so miraculous, we need to remember just how sinful we are. We are utterly and thoroughly corrupted by sin. Our thoughts and everything in our nature goes against God. We deserve eternal death, but God in His love sent Jesus to become man, to be born of Mary, to die on the cross, to rise again to life, and through all of this to give us life. It is a miracle of God’s grace that in eternity He chose each one of you and me to be His very own. It is a miracle of God’s grace that He has brought you into His family, given you faith to believe and through faith gives you the forgiveness of sins. It is a miracle that you have been chosen by God to be His beloved child. John writes in his first chapter: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). We have become children of God through nothing of ourselves, but purely by the will of God and His grace. The good news for us in the angel’s message to Mary is that we too have been chosen by grace for this salvation.
After the angel gave Mary his message, Mary said: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” [v.38] Once Mary heard the news—this amazing, astounding, miraculous news—she humbly submitted to the Lord’s will: “Do with me, Lord, as You see fit.” You have chosen me for this role through no merit of my own. You have chosen me to serve in this capacity though I am a sinner. Lord, what amazing grace and love You have shown to me. Use me as you will.”
With those words Mary provides a wonderful example for us. We have been chosen by God to be His children. We are also chosen by God to serve in various capacities in our lives—certainly nothing like being the mother of our Savior, but no less important. Mary’s role in the work of God’s Kingdom was to be the mother of Jesus. God gave her this role so that He could accomplish the salvation of all sinners.
That was Mary’s role in the Kingdom of God. Each of us, likewise, has a role in the kingdom of God. No, it’s not giving birth to the Savior, but it is still part of the glorious work of the Gospel and God’s desire to save all sinners. What God gives us to do, and the gifts He gives to accomplish it, and the places and opportunities in which He puts us are all part of His work. You are part of that work. Each of you has been chosen by God to fulfill a particular role in that kingdom work, and it is no less important than the role God chose for Mary.
Chosen by God we serve God when we humbly say: “God I don’t deserve to be saved. I know that I sin and I confess those sins—forgive me! I am amazed that you could choose me to be Your child. I’m amazed You could choose me to work in Your Kingdom in any capacity. Here I am, Lord. I humbly submit myself to you. Use me as you will and show me how I may serve.”
The angel’s message to you is “You are chosen.” Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.