Today is the first day of autumn, being the autumnal equinox when the day and night are equal in length and we pass from summer into fall. With that in mind, it is now a little more than ninety days until Christmas. For many people, Christmas is a time of materialism and consumerism. They are absorbed with buying and giving and getting, but Christmas has no deeper meaning for them. They will go through the annual ritual of spending large amounts of money but seek nothing of the biblical reasons for the celebration. While some do recognize that Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, God’s Son. Amid the trees, lights and presents, there is little time given to reflection of the divine truth of the Incarnation of God, Jesus Christ, into humanity.
Since it is several months before Christmas, perhaps we can look at the real and historical facts about Christmas as they are presented in the Bible without all of the pressure the season typically brings. Maybe we can separate the facts from the legends that have somehow grown up around the coming of Christ and see Christmas for what God always intended it to be.
The true purpose of Christmas is to honor a divine Person and remind ourselves of a divine event. Other holidays on our calendar celebrate human achievement, but this one, a divine accomplishment. When looked at from God’s point of view it is the most miraculous and compelling narrative in all of history, because through the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, we read about the dramatic story of the birth of Jesus Christ. This leads us to celebrate Christmas as the fulfillment of God’s mission to send His One and Only Son to ultimately die for our sins so that all who put their faith in Him will have their sins forgiven and be granted eternal life by His grace.
There is much in the Old Testament about the coming of Jesus Christ. In Psalm 2:6-9 we are told:
“I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.” “I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.”
The prophet Isaiah tells us about Jesus’ miraculous virgin birth in Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” (which means “God With Us.”) Two chapters later, in Isaiah 9:6-7 we are told:
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.
Each of these verses conveys the prophetic message of God’s plan for the redemption and salvation of humanity, so that we can be saved by faith alone in Christ alone. They are detailed so that only one Person could fulfill every aspect of each prophecy. These prophecies were given over seven hundred years before Christ’s incarnation.
God’s promise of a Savior which for centuries was the hope of the faithful, believing remnant of Israel continued drawing to fulfillment with Gabriel’s second appearance. This angel whom we know stands in the presence of God has come with God’s message to a young woman. The simple, plain, straightforward and accurate narrative of Gabriel’s message to Mary emphasizes the godly character of Christ’s birth. Luke is being inspired to tell exactly what happened. Our attention will be drawn to this angelic messenger and his mission and announcement.
GABRIEL’S MISSION TO NAZARETH. (Luke 1:26-27)
In the Sixth Month. Luke, who is a careful historian, made sure he included a reference to the timing of these events. He is not offering us a theory–this is when these events happened. We recall from the events that involved Zacharias and Elizabeth that after she discovered that she was pregnant, Elizabeth hid herself for five months. When Gabriel was sent to Mary, those five months were nearly over. Gabriel was dispatched from God’s presence with the most significant birth announcement the world has ever known–the birth of the only Savior, Jesus Christ.
A City in Galilee Called Nazareth. Nazareth was a village in Galilee that had no major roads passing through it. No trade routes brought travelers through the village. Estimates are that it had a population of about 500 people. First century Nazareth appears to have been a vibrant village devoted to agriculture, producing wheat, fruit, honey and millet. The people appear to be industrious and hard working.
Nazareth was far from the cultural centers of Israel. The people of Jerusalem considered the Galileans as somewhat backward and unsophisticated. The distance from Nazareth to Jerusalem was about 80 miles, a distance great enough that the Galileans could only occasionally attend services at the temple. For that reason, the religious leaders of Jerusalem assumed the people from Nazareth lacked spiritual interest.
To A Virgin. We find two descriptions of Mary before her name is given. First, she is a virgin. In first century Palestine, it was customary for people to join in marriage at an earlier age than their twenty-first century counterparts. It is likely that Mary was 13 or 14 years of age when she became engaged to Joseph. Mary likely had been taught to read and write Hebrew and Aramaic (very similar languages) and she was likely very skilled in first century home economics. In the first century there was no stage of life known as adolescence–that is a much more recent invention. At the age of twelve, a boy stood before his family and neighbors at his Bar Mitzvah and, after reciting a large portion of the Book of Deuteronomy, declared, “Today, I am a man.”
And that is how the community viewed him. Next he must find a wife, build a home, and learn a trade. Usually, the parents arranged the marriage. Joseph’s parents met with Mary’s parents and arranged the marriage. Once the arrangement had been made, the couple was engaged. The engagement was as legally binding as marriage and could only be dissolved by divorce. If the groom to be died, his fiancé would be considered a widow.
During the year between the announcement of the engagement and the wedding ceremony, the groom established a home, while the girl prepared for keeping a home and proving her faithfulness and purity to her husband to be and both families. The couple did not live together nor have sexual relations during the betrothal period. It was therefore not surprising that this young betrothed woman was still a chaste and pure virgin. She was waiting for her wedding to Joseph. We are also told that Joseph was a descendant of David’s; making him an heir to the throne if there still had been a Jewish throne. Finally, we find the virgin’s name is Mary which probably means excellence.
GABRIEL’S MESSAGE TO MARY. (Luke 1:28-31) The Angel’s Greeting “Greetings” (chaire) was the typical Greek salutation of the time. The Greek language had been heard and spoken in Palestine for several centuries, so it is likely that Mary was accustomed to it. Whenever an angel speaks to a human, it is in a language that the human can immediately under-stand. I am sure angels speak English and thoroughly understand what we say.
“Favored one” comes from the word for “grace” in the original language. Mary was the recipient of God’s grace. The reason for God’s grace is that no one ever merits God’s approval or can do anything to deserve it. God’s choice of Mary was due to His own sovereign grace not because of her merits in any way. God is the One who shows her favor. Later, Mary will con-fess to needing a Savior. She needed a Savior because, like the rest of us, she had a sin nature and was a sinner who needed God’s salvation.
The Lord was with Mary as the omnipresent God as He is with all believers. Mary was undoubtedly a believer who had placed her faith in the Lord just as Abraham her ancestor. It could be said, “Mary believed God and it was counted to her to righteousness.” This is also true of every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Bible neither recognizes that Mary was sinless nor that God’s choice of her had anything to do with a reward for her own perfections. It was, in fact, an announcement that she was receiving special grace from the Lord. “Ave Maria” (often used as a prayer) has no basis at all in the New Testament. Much as we admire and honor Mary as the Virgin Mother, we may not pray to her or worship her in any way. Mary merits our respect for her willingness to serve the Lord, but the Son she will bear is alone worthy of our worship.
Mary’s Response. What an amazing event for such a young person who lived in such a remote place and time. Sometimes we feel we are too small and insignificant for God to notice but we are wrong. God knew all about Mary. And He knows all about us too.
God’s direct intervention is always unexpected and potentially disturbing. We must notice that Gabriel does not relate everything that will happen to Mary and her Child. Mary, like every believer, must walk by faith and not by sight. It is a testimony to Mary’s faith in the Lord that she kept her wits about her in the presence of a holy angel. It is also a tribute to her family who had clearly trained her in the ways of God as shown in the Old Testament.
Gabriel’s Message. Again, as with Zacharias, Gabriel said to not be afraid. Gabriel was God’s servant and Mary had nothing to fear. For the second time in his brief conversation, Gabriel emphasized that this was God’s grace in action. This was more than grace just to Mary, but through Mary God’s grace came to all of us. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and then we are kept in grace and stand in grace. And, by grace, we will spend eternity in our Father’s House.
GABRIEL’S MESSAGE ABOUT CHRIST. (Luke 1:32-33)
Mary, An Unwed Virgin Will Conceive the Messiah. These verses are the most important in the passage because they refer to the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Gabriel outlines a seven-fold prediction that revealed the identity of the Messiah. First, in fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14, the Messiah will be born of a virgin. That is why Mary, who was a virgin, was chosen–in completion of this prophecy. Christ’s virgin birth was also a fulfillment of Genesis 3:15.
She Must Name Him Jesus. Jesus is the name Yeshua, God is Savior. Mary knew Jesus would be the One who would save His people from their sins.
Jesus, Her Son, Will Be Great. True believers who worship Christ are always aware that human language is inadequate to express the honor and glory of His Person and greatness. Jesus’ greatness is unqualified and knows no boundaries. He is great!
He Will Be Called the Son of the Most High. Christ possesses the glory of God because as the Son of the Most High He possesses God’s nature. It is a title that refers to His position as the supreme sovereign ruler. He is of the exact same essence as God.
God Will Give Him the Throne of His Father David. The next three are in fulfillment of 2 Samuel 7:12-16, a prophecy given to David. Jesus will be enthroned as King and reign from David’s throne over the entire world. This has not happened yet.
He Will Reign Over Israel. He will specifically rule over the re-gathered nation of Israel who will inhabit the land promised to them by God. He is their King! Israel rejected Him at His first coming. They will crown Him king at His second.
His Kingdom Will Have No End. The kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ will be eternal and He will reign forever and ever. This prophecy is awaiting fulfillment. Jesus is coming again and when He does He will establish His kingdom. In this prophecy is the seed-thought of Christ’s resurrection. He will be the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, but He will rise and rule over His Kingdom.
Thus the marvel of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ begins. It will mean humanity will see a sinless life and witness amazing miracles. It will also mean that this chosen Child will grow up and become the One and Only sacrifice for sin. He will die a horrible death, but He will rise in eternal triumph. Only through faith in Him can any person have eternal life. Have you trusted in Christ?
Updated by Pastor Vernon Welkner 10/8/2018