In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. — Luke 1:26–38 (ESV)
Consider the following scenario: There’s a knock at the door, the bell rings. Who could it be? You weren’t expecting anyone. Maybe it’s the annoying neighbor kid? UPS? Amazon? Oh well. You approach the door and slowly open it, only to be greeted by an angel. Not the fluffy, fat, floating-on-the-cloud Hallmark type either. This is a real angel...Gabriel.
You think that’s weird? Just wait!
The angel proceeds to announce that though you are a young virgin Jewish girl who is betrothed to your sweet-heart, you, yes you, are going to have a child. This child will not be conceived the old-fashioned way. This child will be conceived of the Holy Spirit, whose power will overshadow you. To make things even better, this child will arrive before your wedding day, making you and your family the objects of endless scorn and scandal.
Whatever sort of greeting you thought might await you on the other side of that door, this was certainly not that. How do you think the neighbors will respond when you try to explain that an angel told you all of this and that you are in fact a virgin?
This greeting thrust Mary and Joseph into a life of running from murderous kings, disrepute, accusation, and conflict. They did not ask for this. But this was the greeting Mary received. This was her Christmas greeting.
For some of us, Christmas is a sweet time full of cherished traditions. We share meals, eat cookies, decorate our homes, gather with loved ones, and exchange gifts. For others, Christmas time can be a real struggle. It reminds us of difficult times, broken relationships, and the loved ones we have lost. But none of us has ever received a Christmas greeting as weighty as Mary’s.
...none of us has ever received a Christmas greeting as weighty as Mary’s.
Christmas reminds us that God is sovereign and free to do whatever he wants. He can cause a virgin girl to be pregnant. That alone ought to bolster our confidence in his un-matchable power. Whatever odds we face, they are nothing in light of God’s great power. At the same time, we are reminded that our lives are not our own; they belong to the Lord. Our plans are not always God’s plans. All of Mary’s dreams and expectations for her family and future were changed in the blink of an eye. God had something else in mind. Better for sure. But different, even difficult.
This Christmas as we remember the past, enjoy the present, and dream about the future, may we remember the greeting Mary received from the angel Gabriel. May we hold our plans and dreams loosely enough to make room for whatever God may bring our way, knowing and trust-ing in his endless goodness. And like Mary, may we be ready to respond with eager obedience.
We bow down and commit this Christmas season to our victorious God.
We confess, it is easy to feel removed from Mary’s Christmas experience. For us, the holidays have the potential to be cozy and joyful—even able to be enjoyed from the comfort of our own quaintly decorated homes. But truthfully, Christmas greets us much like it did Mary: A costly invitation to die to ourselves and follow our Redeemer. To exchange comfort and self-preservation for trust in the Son of the Living God. To risk it all in order to declare that Christ is ruler over all.
It is easy to have faith when everything is going well. But you have shown us that we are alone in neither the valleys nor the hills. Teach us to trust, Oh Lord. May we cling to your every word and promise, knowing that you can handle our worst-case scenarios.
In a world that hates the true King, obedience to him triggers fear, hatred, and persecution. We cannot run headlong toward the light without offending someone. When persecution comes for us—and it will—we pray for strength to stand firm, knowing that we have been called and equipped for this work.
May we count the cost and charge forward,
Submitting to a holy cadence and sovereignty,
Surrendering our everything to the will of the Lord.
Be our fortitude, Jehovah, God who delivers.
We know that nations will rise and fall, and still, the Son of Man will be standing. Set our eyes on these truths so that we may serve with an
Until we meet in glory.