Madison Church

Unpacking the Miracle of Christmas and Mary's Faithful Response

December 04, 2023 Sarah Hanson
Madison Church
Unpacking the Miracle of Christmas and Mary's Faithful Response
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ever wondered what time travel has to do with the Christmas story? Brace yourself for an intriguing exploration of faith, disbelief, and divine revelations that'll reshape your understanding of the biblical account of Mary and the angel Gabriel. We kick off our talk with a spirited debate on Christmas music before we journey back in time, drawing you into the extraordinary announcement Mary receives and her remarkable faith in response. Unpack the significance of Gabriel's message and the role of Joseph, even as we highlight the surprising ways God works.

As we continue our journey, we dive deep into Mary's response to Gabriel's announcement. Imagine being told you'll bear a son who will be great and be called the Son of God! We break down the religious language so you can grasp the full implications of this divine message. Discover how Mary's faithful affirmation contrasts sharply with Zechariah's skepticism. We conclude our episode with a practical discussion on embracing God's call in our lives. Using an easy-to-remember acronym, YES (Yield, Expectant, and Stillness), we offer guidance on positioning ourselves for a faithful response to God's call. Whether you're a skeptic or a believer, get ready for an enlightening journey through faith, miracles, and divine revelations.

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Speaker 1:

I'm Sarah, and it is so good to be back here with you guys. It's been a while I've missed you all and I see some new faces. I think it's time for maybe a little quiz to see which side of the room are my people this time, because sometimes it gets mixed up. I discovered this morning that Steven likes to listen to Christmas music starting Halloween. Anybody else like to listen to Christmas music starting that early? Raise your hand so that Steven knows you're on his team. All right, just a couple of you. I have a personal rule that it can't start until December. Does anybody wait that long? Raise your hand. Oh, I have more people. Woo, I love it. I knew it Is everybody else. Are you in between or no? Christmas music at all In between? Okay, all right, good to know. So, steven, you lose, all right. I'm wondering if anybody here has ever thought about the idea about going back in time, time travel. Maybe you hook up with Dr who and jump in, go somewhere and you end up having to explain some sort of impossible situation to somebody in the past, explaining or delivering a message that just doesn't make sense. It defies physics, it defies reason. How would you be able to do that? How would you convince people to believe you? What you know is true, but they can't see is a possibility? What if you had to go back in time to say 1823 and explain to them the technology that we have today? Can you imagine trying to explain to them an airplane or a television, a smartphone? I mean, they would think you're nuts, they would. I mean, I couldn't even convince my math teacher back in the day that I would have a calculator in my pocket. Right, am I alone? Or is that? Yeah, I'm alone. Okay, good, one person. They always just told us you were not going to have a calculator in your pocket. You're going to need to know these math things. Here we are, I have a calculator in my pocket and right here too, always with me. And we've all probably met people who are pretty gullible, right, but they just kind of seem to believe anything just because it sounds really fun or they saw a meme about it. So now they know that it's true, we know those people, don't we? But most people that I know are skeptics, even religious people. They're skeptics at heart, and if there's something that sounds kind of way out there, unless there's some sort of proof or evidence, they just dismiss it Right, and I don't know that that's a bad thing. We should be looking for some sort of evidence right Today. We're going to look at Luke 1.26 through 38 and we're going to see that there's this really young girl. She's about 14, 15 years old and she's going to get one of the strangest, yet the most important messages that anybody has ever received. Mary is going to be told that she's going to be pregnant, that she's going to have a baby, that that baby is going to be Jesus, the savior of the world no big deal the one that she and her people for generations and generations have been waiting for. Can you imagine having to deliver that message to her? No thanks, glad it was Gabriel and not me. What would you even do to convince her right? And what if somebody showed up and had to deliver a message like that to you? What would your response be? How would you be convinced that that was really going to be the truth? I think, to fully wrap our brains around what's going on in this passage, it's important to remember about what Stephen talked about last week right, where he talked about a similar revelation that happened to Zechariah when he found out that, even though they were old, even though they were beyond their childbearing years, his wife, elizabeth was going to get pregnant. They were going to name this child John, and John was going to be a forerunner. He was going to be a sign, an indication, and ultimately announce all the stuff that was going to happen with Jesus. And Zechariah was a realist right, he had disbelief. He's like listen, I'm old, my wife is old, this just isn't going to happen, it's impossible. So, despite living a lifetime of faithfulness to God, zechariah here displayed unfaithfulness, he displayed disbelief and, as a result, he couldn't speak. The angel, gabriel, told him that he wouldn't be able to speak until John was born, and that would be evidence that God was in. This Gabriel was like Zechariah you get to be quiet, you get to just sit back and watch God do his thing. And you guys know what happened. Right, elizabeth got pregnant, even though she was an old lady. So let's pick it up from there. If you want to follow along, you can either grab one of those old school Bibles on the chair, if you didn't bring one with you, or you can use your Bible app on your phone, like it's 2023. And you can check out Luke 1, starting at verse 26. It says in the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, god sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. So God sent Gabriel this was the same angel again, who was that messenger to Zechariah. God sent him to Nazareth, in Galilee Now Galilee is. It's a region of Judea, it's up north, it's rural, it's not an impressive town. It's a big deal now. Now most of us have heard about it, but back then it wasn't really a big deal. It was basically one of those unremarkable small towns that you could easily blink and forget about as you're passing by. This is the last place that anybody would have expected the Messiah to be from. And then we have Joseph. Now Joseph is a descendant of David, and knowing that Joseph is descended from David is important because it comes up a lot as we read through about the story of Jesus. But the thing to remember here is that God had promised redemption for the people of Israel. Redemption of everybody was going to come through this line, through the line of David. David is the king of the Jews from 1,000 years earlier, who was regarded as ruling over Israel during their golden age of existence. Everybody at this time wants to get back to the time when it was really awesome and David was in charge. Bring David back. He knew what he was doing, and so the Messiah being descended from David is a really important concept in a really important component of what he's supposed to be all about. And then we have Mary. And now almost everybody has heard of this lady, right? She's arguably one of the most important female religious figures in all history. She's about to be confronted with some really heavy stuff. Verse 28, the angel went to her and said "'Greetings you, who are highly favored. "'the Lord is with you'". So obviously, that's nice to say, right, I mean, you guys are greatly favored. That's wonderful. But also in Mary's situation, we have to wonder even if I'm highly favored and this is a good message the fact that God would go through the trouble of sending Gabriel to deliver it to me means that my life is probably about to change pretty drastically, right? Verse 29, mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. She would have been raised around the teachings of the laws that we call the Old Testament. She would have known that when God communicated to Noah, something big happened, right, she would have known that when God communicated to Abraham, there were some big, dramatic things that happened. And she would have known that when God communicated with Moses, some significant changes happened. So what's it gonna be here? Are we talking about sacrifices, frogs raining from heaven, maybe a giant flood? It's always something huge. So she's right to be apprehensive. Verse 30,. But the angels said to her "'Do not be afraid, mary, you have found favor with God. "'you will conceive and give birth to a son, "'and you are to call him Jesus'". Now, that first half sounds great. Don't be afraid, mary, you have found favor with the Lord. Who doesn't wanna hear that? We all wanna hear that we have found favor with the Lord. We don't all wanna hear the second half, though. Right, that second half, that part about getting pregnant, and it's gonna happen soon. Now, if, I'm, say, a 14 and 15 to 15 year old girl, that might be a problem for me. She would have been troubled because she's not married to Joseph at this point. She was in a Jewish betrothal, which was kind of a complicated system. Mary and Joseph were betrothed, which meant they were almost married. They had the expectations of faithfulness, of building a household and Getting ready for one another. But they were not together physically because they were not actually married yet. There was this huge, long, drawn-out process. So the commitment is there, but they're not fully man and wife, if you know what I mean. Mary is smart. She knows that if she's pregnant even though this was God's idea this is going to affect her for the rest of her life. This is going to be disastrous. It's overwhelmingly possible that Joseph isn't going to want to have anything to do with her, but there will be huge social consequences to pay, both with her family, her friends, her community. It would be natural and right for her to be terrified. Gabriel goes on and he says in verse 32 he will be great and will be called the son of the most high. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father, david, and he will reign over Jacob's descendants forever. His kingdom will never end. So the promise was a lot for Mary to take in. I mean, it's a lot for me to take in. There's a lot in that little bit. So let's kind of break it down a little bit. So first he says hey, mary, you're gonna have a son Right. Second, you're gonna name him Jesus. That's the easy part. Third, he's gonna be great and Not like good or special, like he's gonna be extra likable or he's gonna be in all the AP classes in high school, but he is going to be great. He is going to be called the son of the most high. This is the first hint that Jesus is Going to be the son of God here on earth. God taking human flesh. He's going to sit on the throne of David. That has huge implications for a Jewish person at this time. Mary and any other Jewish person back then would have immediately realized okay, we're talking about the Messiah here. This is the one we've been waiting for. This is the predicted one. We're talking about the person who's going to come and redeem everything and make it all better. He is the extension of what God started with in his interactions with the Jewish people and Ultimately is going to give him as a gift to all of mankind, all of humankind. He's gonna bring about redemption. That's who we're talking about, and Mary would have started figuring this all out as this is being told to her. Gabriel says that Jesus will rule over the house of Jacob and that his kingdom will never end. So what we have here in this tiny amount of text, is the explanation of who Jesus is, what he's there to do and what the implications are going to be for the future. That's a lot, and before we get on to Mary's response, let me just kind of squeeze you away all that thick, complex, religious sounding Language and put it in a in a way that kind of makes sense for us today. Here, what's being said is that the solution to the human problem is at hand, and by human problem I mean that thing that we all know is going on right. There's chaos, economic struggles, politics, war, all the things that are hard about the world on a grand scale, and all the things about us that are difficult, the things that we can't fix, the things that we can't straighten out by ourselves. God is going to redeem that, and he's going to redeem it permanently. This is going to be the one who does that, redeeming Mary, and the Jewish people at that point would recognize this as the Messiah For you and me. Even if this isn't something we buy into, we should be able to recognize at least that this was a promise that was given for all people. In verse 34, mary follows up with a completely reasonable question. She says how will this be? Mary, asked the angel, since I'm a virgin. So if I'm Mary, I'm young, I'm not married, I'm a virgin. This would be the most obvious thing. I would want to know. This isn't doubt or questioning on her behalf. She's on board. Okay, if this needs to be, then great. But how exactly is this going to work? Verse 35,. The angel answered the Holy Spirit will come on you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, so the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth, your relative, is going to have a child in her old age, and she, who is said to be unable to conceive, is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail. So she gets this answer that's both vague and specific You're going to become pregnant. That's what you need to know. This will be the miraculous work of the Lord. God's already miraculously made your cousin Elizabeth pregnant, even though she's an old lady, and her child is a forerunner of what's going to happen with your child. Great, and this part? Gabriel isn't saying whatever you want to happen is what's going to happen. Right, he's not saying that. Instead, he's saying nothing is impossible with God, which means that if God ordains something that needs to happen, god is unlimited and he can make that happen. The payoff to the whole thing happens in verse 38. But before we read it, let's remember what happened right before. Right, when we went through this last week, when Zachariah was in a place where he was skeptical and he wanted some proof, he tried to play his hand a little bit and ultimately, the sign that he got was to demonstrate that this was really going to happen was that his own ability to speak happened. It was miraculously put on him by God. Mary, on the other hand I mean, it doesn't look good for her, right, she's not a priest like Zachariah was. She doesn't know as much about God or the scriptures. She's young. She hasn't practiced following God as long as Zachariah, so she'll probably just screw this whole thing up. She'll probably say a bunch of dumb stuff that 14 and 15 year old say, and she'll probably end up being muted as well. Right, verse 38. I am the Lord's servant. Mary answered May your word to me be fulfilled. Then the angel left her Dang. How'd she do that? I mean, a lot of people get really excited about Mary and some people even get a little too excited about Mary. I want to make it clear Mary is not a deity. Right, she doesn't hold this unique place where she provides unique access to Jesus. But I do think that Mary is one of the coolest women who ever lived, and part of why I think that is what happened right here in verse 38. Not just that she got to be the mother of Jesus, which is pretty awesome, it's that she was so eager and responded with such faithfulness. God, if this is what you have, even if it's going to cost me, even if it's going to be hard on me, even if my family and my friends shun me, even if I don't know what that means, for everything I know and love I'm in, mary is faithful. I can't say with certainty that I could have done that, especially at her young age. Put me in that spot. Even though I thought about it a lot and I read and think and study the Bible a lot. I talk about the Bible a lot. I probably wouldn't have gotten that right. I would have wanted a longer conversation. I would have wanted some details. I want more explanation, but Mary doesn't push back. She just humbly says all right, I trust you, god. Abraham, who is theoretically really good at believing God? I mean, famously the Bible says that about him. Even Abraham and his wife Sarah struggled with that at times. Zechariah was a professional believer of God and he had trouble with it. Here comes this kid and she just knocks it out of the park. She had to overcome some of her lifelong understandings. She had to overcome some theological presuppositions that would have been drilled into her head as a young child that the Messiah would look a certain way, that he would have a certain power, that he would arrive in this big, dramatic fashion. All at once her entire life changes. But also her assumptions about the narrative, about the redemption for her people and the world that she has been raised with are also challenged. And they're not just challenged but they're immediately and irrevocably altered. So Mary had to overcome those theological presuppositions and expectations in order for her to believe. But for us, I think, the greater challenge is overcoming natural laws. We are used to the natural and physical world operating in a certain way with a certain set of predictable patterns and rules that anything that's outside of that system just doesn't fit and it doesn't compute and the easiest thing to do is to just outright reject that claim, and for most claims I think that makes a lot of sense. But what's more difficult, and what gets us closer to truth, is to consider the merit of various claims. When there are multiple claims, the merit of this claim cannot be vetted just by this little passage alone. We can't just read this one verse and oh yep, it's truth. Because there it is, it's written right. That's hard to vet that. But if we look at the totality of the history of the church and everything that happened in the rest of the New Testament, everything that happens in the life of Jesus, that reflects back on this miraculous description. It helps us to make a little sense of the claim of the virgin birth, and that virgin birth is really important because Jesus is part God and part man. Well, actually he's all God and all man, and that is a big deal that we come to that understanding that the role that he was going to play in working out forgiveness between God and man is pivotal. It's important on that we're talking about this pivotal person in the redemptive history of God and all of humankind, and what that means is this person needs to be close enough to humanity to give a rip about our conditions and our problems, but also big enough and powerful enough to do something about that problem. Lots of people care about human suffering and the flawed state of humans, but nobody has the ability to do very much about it. What God does, and in Jesus right from the get go, he is both close enough to care about our predicament and big enough to do something about it. One of the really cool things about the gospel and the whole Jesus thing in general is that it transcends social barriers, including age versus youth. Right, mary was a young person who got it right, more so than a really important well-schooled older person who probably should have been the one to show her how it's done. The faith of a young person counts. The faith of a young person changed the world. Now there are some of you here right now who've been at this whole Jesus thing for a really long time or a somewhat long time, I don't want to accuse and there are some of you here who are young. Maybe you're young in age or you're young in your faith and this whole Jesus thing is still new to you. I want us to remember that God had a plan and a purpose for Zachariah and Elizabeth, and he had a plan and a purpose for John. He had a plan for Mary, and God has a plan and purpose for us, for me and for you. So how can we respond in faithfulness, like Mary? How do we do that? How do we say yes to God when Not if, but when he asks us the seemingly impossible? So preachers, teachers, marketers, they like to use acronyms and short lists and alliteration right, we're all familiar with these things that happen here. So I came up with an acronym for you to help us remember how to say yes to God when we need to. So why Is for yield right? We need to yield. To yield means to give way to something. When you stop at a yield sign, you're acknowledging someone else has the right of way. When we choose Jesus, we're acknowledging that God has the right of way in our lives. To yield means to meet God on His terms. We give Him priority in our decisions. Yield and then expectant. We find God when we look for Him. Matthew 7-7 tells us to seek and you will find. We should be expecting God to speak, to act, to guide. We should remain expectant that God is moving and active in our lives and then stillness In our time and culture. There's an emphasis on getting things done right. I mean, I love a good to-do list, love it, and even more I love to check things off as they get done. It makes me feel like I've accomplished all the things. And I listen to a lot of podcasts and leadership book, read a lot of leadership books, right, and a lot of them emphasize the importance of the hustle. You guys are familiar with the hustle, right? I'm not talking about the dance, all right, they talk about the hustle. And the Christian leadership genre is no different. They say things like two-thirds of God is go and you can't steer a car that's not moving. I don't disagree, right? But there's also this leadership principle called sharpening the saw, and it's where you stop chopping down the tree long enough to sharpen your saw. Work smarter, not harder, and sometimes it's really important to pause long enough to make sure we're even chopping down the right tree. Sometimes we have to stop trying to make things happen in our own strength and power. We need to take this holy pause to be still and know that he is God and let him do his thing, let him do the impossible in our lives. When we yield to God, remain expectant and utilize that holy pause of stillness, we position ourselves to better respond in faithfulness. Just like Mary, we position ourselves to say yes even when it seems impossible.

Mary's Angelic Message
Mary's Faithful Response to the Angel
Positioning for Faithful Response to God