“December 5, 2018 – The Angel’s Announcement Proclaims God’s Grace”
From December 5th, 2018
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Luke 1:26-38 The Angel’s Announcement Proclaims God’s Grace
What an incredible announcement! Last week, we heard God’s divine messenger give Zechariah an incredible and unexpected message. He and his wife Elizabeth, even in their old age, even though up to that point they hadn’t been able to have children – would nevertheless have a son who would be the forerunner for the Savior. But that amazing announcement is nothing in comparison to what the angel tells Mary. This isn’t just unexpected – it’s impossible. What an incredible miracle God was about to perform! It’s no wonder that Mary reacted with surprise. She would be the mother of the Savior – God’s own Son. With this announcement, God in his grace was now bringing to fulfillment centuries of promise. The time had come for the Savior to be born. So what an incredible announcement – not just for Mary, but for us well. That child, born of Mary, is also our Savior. So the angel’s announcement proclaims God’s grace. In grace, God chose Mary to be the mother of the Savior. In grace, God fulfilled his promise to send a Savior and King. And in grace, God led Mary to believe his promise.
The angel Gabriel, who speaks to Mary, had been sent to Daniel in the Old Testament, to help Daniel understand the vision which the Lord had given him. That vision showed the rise and fall of coming empires and kingdoms. Ultimately, it pictured the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of his far more glorious, eternal kingdom. Now Gabriel is sent to announce the coming of that Messiah, to announce the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom. What Daniel had seen was about to happen. The ultimate and final fulfillment will happen when Jesus returns in glory. But with the angel’s announcement, the time had now come for God to fulfill his greatest promise – the gift of his own Son to be our Savior and substitute.
The angel announces to Mary not only what would happen and how – that she would have a child even though she was a virgin. But the angel also gives her a great deal of information about who this child would be and why this would happen.
Why did God choose Mary to be the mother of his Son? Was there something special about Mary as the Catholic Church would have us believe? Was she without sin? Was she somehow better than any other virgin in Israel? No, the fact is that Mary too was a sinner. In her song of praise to God after the announcement, she confesses that she is a sinner. She is in need of a Savior. Her child would also be her Savior. When the angel first appeared to Mary, her first reaction was fear – until the angel calmed those fears with his words. But here was God’s holy angel, a special messenger, come to deliver God’s word directly to her, she was afraid as any sinner would be.
The angel calmed her fear – “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.” What tremendous words of comfort for any sinner to hear. God’s favor is his grace, his undeserved love for sinners. It was God’s undeserved love for Mary that led him to choose her.
God has also shown grace to us. God has also chosen us for a special purpose. We have been called to be his children and to serve him with our lives. It wasn’t because of who we are. It wasn’t because of how good we are or anything that we did or would do. There is nothing in us that should set us apart from the rest of this world of sinners. We are completely rotten sinners, who have disobeyed, who by nature were his enemies, who deserve nothing but his punishment. But God in his grace, in undeserved love, chose us as his own. The apostle Paul tells us, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” So to you, God also says, “Don’t be afraid, you have found favor with God.”
It was by grace that God chose Mary and it is by grace that he has chosen us. What a comfort that is. My calling and election are sure. It doesn’t depend on me, but rest secure with the Lord. It frees me from the burden of having to earn it or show that I deserve it. Frees me to live in thankfulness in response to God’s grace.
The angel’s announcement makes it clear that this was an act of God’s grace. The angel’s announcement also makes clear who this child would be – he would be both true man and true God. Jesus’ had a human mother – Mary. He entered this word the same way you and I did – born of a woman. He could trace his ancestry back to David and to Abraham. He was truly man – a true human being. As a true human being, Jesus experienced the same things that we do. He got hungry and tired. He faced temptation – although with one big difference – he never gave in to that temptation and sinned. The writer to the Hebrews reminds us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.” What a great comfort that is for us – Jesus our Savior is one of us. He knows what we are going through. He knows the troubles of this life and he is there to help.
Jesus had to be a true man in order to be our substitute. When you substitute, you need to have similar things. In baking, if you substitute one ingredient for another, it needs to be very similar or whatever you are making won’t turn out. If you got on an airplane, and a substitute is needed for the pilot, I’m sure you’d want them to get another pilot, not just anyone available. To be our substitute, Jesus needed to be a true human being. He had to be a true man to be placed under the law in order to keep the law perfectly as our substitute. God is above the law, not under it. He had to be a true human being to go to the cross to suffer and die for us. God can’t die. And so God’s own Son became a true human being to take our place. As the writer to the Hebrews says, “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”
But Jesus isn’t just a man. He is also true God. That meant that his birth would not be a normal one. His mother Mary was a virgin. This was something that God had prophesied. Jesus’ conception was a miracle of the Holy Spirit. He is Immanuel – God with us. In fact, the apostle Paul says, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” What an amazing miracle. The almighty creator God takes on our human flesh and blood, yet he remains God. So Jesus was conceived in a special way by the Holy Spirit.
Again, the Savior had to be true God. If Jesus had been just a man – he couldn’t have saved us. A perfect man, if there could even be such a thing, could only save himself. His death, as innocent and terrible as it might have been, wouldn’t have counted for anyone else. But Jesus is true God. As true God he was able to be perfect and to perfectly keep the law. As true God his sacrifice on the cross was sufficient payment to atone for the sins of the entire world. Only the precious blood of God’s own Son would be a sufficient sacrifice to pay for all sin.
How can we be sure that Jesus is true God? How can we be sure that the angel’s announcement has come true? Jesus miracles testify to his divine power. Greatest of those miracles, Jesus resurrection is our assurance that he is more than just a man, more than a great prophet, he is God’s own Son and his resurrection assures us that all sin has been paid for.
As true God and as the Savior, Jesus is a king – the King of kings who is ruling over everything for our good. As God promised David, his descendant would reign forever. Obviously, God wasn’t speaking simply about some earthly king – how could any man rule forever. This was a promise of the Savior even now rules everything for the good of his people.
What a great comfort that is for us. Our Savior is in control. When we see terrible things happening in our world, we may be tempted to wonder – who is in control? Our Savior is. No matter what terror might come, no matter how it may seem to us, he is in control. At times, he allows trouble to come to discipline us. But he never forgets us. He never leaves us. He is always there to help. What a wonderful comfort that we have such a Savior King.
What was Mary’s reaction to all this. After being reminded by the angel that “nothing is impossible with God,” Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” In faith, Mary simply accepted the angel’s announcement. This too was by God’s grace. The Holy Spirit at work in Mary’s heart led her to believe and trust his promise. She didn’t ask for a sign – although God gave her one. Her relative Elizabeth, who was barren and past the age of child bearing, was 6 months pregnant. Her child, John, would prepare the way for Jesus’ ministry.
By grace, God has also worked faith in our hearts and simply calls on us to believe his promises, to place our trust in him and to trust Jesus for forgiveness and salvation. That isn’t easy. When guilt weighs us done, we are tempted to think that we need to do something to make up for our wrong. Our sinful flesh would like to take some credit – after all look at the good person I am. We want to be able to logically reason everything out. Or maybe we’d like to see some special sign to show us that it’s true – some miracle. But God calls upon us to simply accept his word as it is. The psalm writer reminds us about God’s word, “All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.” God in grace sends his Holy Spirit to work word in our hearts through that so that we also simply trust and believe.
What tremendous, what incredible, amazing grace God shows to his weak, helpless, sinful creatures. In grace, he sent his own Son into this world to be our substitute. In grace, he sent his Holy Spirit to work faith in our hearts to trust that Savior. In grace, he will keep us in the faith and bring us safely through this life to himself in heaven. The angel Gabriel announced God’s grace to Mary and to us.
“Marvel now, O heav’n and earth, That the Lord chose such a birth.” “Wondrous birth! O wondrous Child.” – words from a hymn we sang this past Sunday. What a miracle! Jesus birth is a marvel and a wonder. How could a virgin give birth to a son? Why would the eternal Son of God become a helpless infant? How can that baby, lying in a manager in Bethlehem, be the almighty, creator God? There are many things about Jesus’ birth, about his person, about his work – that are beyond our comprehension, that are a marvel and wonder to us.
But tied up in that wonder is our salvation. What a glorious mystery God reveals to us. The apostle Paul tells us, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ.” The gospel is a mystery because it isn’t something that we could figure out on our own. But God has revealed that mystery to us. He has made his grace known. He sent an angel to announce his grace to Mary. And he continue to make his grace know to us through his written word – the Bible. What an incredible announcement Mary received! The angel announced God’s grace to her and to all people. Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary, is Savior and King.