The Holy Child
December 25, 2022 Speaker: Kit Johnson Series: Miscellaneous Sermons
Topic: Topical Passage: Luke 1:26–38
I love singing and listening to these Christmas songs. They represent many of our most important traditions. But more than that, they are filled with significant gospel truths about God’s nature, the promise of salvation, and the hope of a future kingdom. All of which came together in the birth of Christ.
With the rest of our time, I’d like to consider an important piece of this story, which establishes much of the significance behind the birth of Christ. It is the familiar but fascinating story of Gabriel’s announcement to Mary (read). What an incredible moment for Mary, and what an important message for mankind! I’d like to divide our study into 4 assertions about Jesus that this passage makes. First…
I. Jesus is a gracious gift (vv. 26–30).
We’ll get to why this is so. But first notice that this passage directly follows Gabriel’s announcement to Zechariah in vv. 5–25 that God was going to give John the Baptist to Zechariah and Elizabeth. There are some important similarities between the passages, but the differences are more significant.
Specifically, Zechariah was a priest. He was at the top of the Israelite social structure. And the angel Gabriel appeared to him in the most holy place on earth—the temple in Jerusalem.
And v. 26 says that in the 6th month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, Gabriel appears again. But this time he doesn’t appear in the temple; instead, he appears in the tiny community of Nazareth. It’s so small that Luke must specify to his Gentile readers that Nazareth was in Galilee.
And this time, he doesn’t appear to a priest; instead, he appears to an insignificant young girl named Mary. Verse 27 says she was a “virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph.” This means that she could have been as young as 12, though she may have been a few years older. Still, this is not an established woman of means. No, this is a young teenage girl who is probably living with her parents in relative poverty.
Gabriel had appeared twice to the great prophet Daniel in the powerful city of Babylon. He’s also appeared to Zechariah in the temple. But now God sends him to the little town of Nazareth to talk with a poor young lady. Christ’s story is a story of humility from the very beginning.
Mary was apparently inside her home alone when Gabriel suddenly walked in on her. I seriously doubt that Gabriel had wings and a halo, but somehow it was immediately obvious to Mary that he was no ordinary man. Imagine her surprise to have this glorious angel walk into her humble home.
Then he declares “Greetings…” Catholics understand this as almost an expression of worship, but Gabriel uses a normal greeting that focuses on God’s grace. That’s because Mary wasn’t perfect. There wasn’t anything about her that made her deserving of this honor. Instead, she is a surprising choice.
Only a handful of people knew Mary or even cared for her, but God knew her, loved her, and showered her with grace. God does this often. He loves to honor the weak so that we glorify him for his grace, not ourselves.
As well, the choice of Mary establishes right away that Jesus wasn’t coming in glory. He came as a humble servant. God’s choice of Mary as his mother perfectly establishes the tenor of Jesus’ life.
That said, God gave Mary an incredible honor. Again, v. 28 calls her “Favored one! The Lord is with you.” And Gabriel reiterates the point in v. 30, “You have found favor with God.” God is magnifying his grace from the very beginning of the incarnation story.
But Mary is swimming. An angel just walked into her house, and he just told her that she was favored of the Lord. It’s worth remembering that no one else is in the house, so Luke’s story must ultimately come from Mary’s herself. So, I love how she describes her own response in v. 29.
Ladies is that how you would respond? She doesn’t scream or cry; she is “perplexed” and “ponders” what Gabriel is saying. Mary sounds like someone who reads the encyclopedia for fun.
But the point remains that God gave her a gracious gift. Jesus is the eternal Son of God, and he was coming to “save his people from their sins.” And Gabriel begins by emphasizing the fact that God had given Mary a great privilege. She would carry the most important baby ever born.
Christ’s coming is all grace. We should all rejoice today in God’s gracious gift of Christ. Then Gabriel proceeds to explain why Mary was so highly favored. She was going to have a baby! But he wouldn’t be just any baby. The 2nd assertion of the text is that…
II. Jesus is the promised Savior (vv. 31–33).
Again, put yourself in Mary’s shoes. She’s wrapping her mind around the fact that an angel is in her house and has said she is favored of the Lord. Then he adds, you will “bear a son.” Based on what follows she didn’t understand this to mean that she would become pregnant someday down the road; instead, it was going to happen almost immediately. That’s a lot to take in.
But Gabriel is just getting started. He commands her to name the baby Jesus. Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua. It means “Yahweh is salvation” or “Yahweh saves.” It was a common name, but it was full of significance. An angel would later tell Joseph and say, “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins (Matt 1:21).” Jesus came fundamentally to glorify God in the salvation of sinners.
Then vv. 32–33 record the meat of Gabriel’s prophecy with 5 statements about the significance of this baby. The first two declare that…
Jesus is the Son of God (v. 32a). Great translates a common term for greatness, but Jesus will not be a common man. He would be truly great.
This is because he will be “the Son of the Most High.” That’s an ironic prediction to receive in a birth announcement. Typically, when someone finds out they are having a baby, a big part of their joy is in the fact that I am having a son or a daughter. But God immediately emphasizes the fact that this child will ultimately not be Mary or Joseph’s son but “the Son of the Most High.”
“Most High” speaks of God’s supreme authority or sovereignty. The fact that the baby will be “called the Son of the Most High” declares that he will not be a mere man; he will be God in human flesh.
That’s something we could easily take for granted, but we never should. It is truly incredible that eternal, infinite God submitted to all the limitations and frustrations of life in human flesh to the point of becoming a helpless baby. We can’t comprehend it, but it really happened.
So, Gabriel begins with Jesus’ divine significance. He is the Son of God. Of course, this is the most significant fact about him. We must worship Christ above all else today as the “Son of the Most High.” Then Gabriel transitions to Jesus’ significance within God’s redemptive plan. Gabriel’s next 3 statements declare that…
Jesus is the promised Messiah. First, Gabriel states, “And the Lord God…” That statement may not grab us, but it would definitely grab the attention of a Jew living under Roman oppression. Afterall, the Jews had been waiting for over 900 years for God to fulfill his promise to David that someday a son of David would establish an eternal throne in Jerusalem.
Those 900 years had been incredibly rocky with lots of suffering, famine, oppression, and death. But the godly remnant endured it all by faith in God’s promise to someday send Messiah from the line of David. Now, Gabriel tells Mary that she will carry the child Israel has been waiting for 900 years to receive. Jesus is the one who will reclaim the “throne of his father David.”
And Gabriel adds, “He will reign over the house of Jacob forever.” It’s worth emphasizing that the “house of Jacob” is a clear reference to national Israel. These kinds of statements clearly point to a future, political kingdom for Israel. There’s no other way a godly Jew would understand this. God absolutely will honor the faith and endurance of generations of godly Jews by fulfilling every promise he has made to them.
Of course, we will also enjoy the blessings of that kingdom. Revelation promises that church age saints will rule and reign alongside Jesus when he comes to reign from the throne of David.
That’s a great hope to remember as we celebrate Christmas. Hopefully, today is a day of great joy for you, but today is often a day of great sorrow as people grieve over lost loved ones or as they face the brokenness of their families or the reality of loneliness.
If you are alone or hurting today, take heart that a better day is coming. Christ will fix everything that is broken, and he will make all things new. So, use your sorrow to turn your eyes to a better day, the day when Christ returns and makes all things new. It’s going to be a glorious day.
And finally, Gabriel assures Mary, “His kingdom will have no end.” As a child, I always felt like the worst part of Christmas was the day after. I spent weeks anticipating Christmas, and then it was over. It was such a letdown.
But there won’t be any letdown with the reign of Christ. It will last forever and ever. So, there is great hope in the Christmas story that outshines any sorrow or hardship you are facing. Keep your eyes there today.
In sum, Gabriel drops a shocking announcement on Mary. One minute she’s scrubbing the floor, and the next, the mighty Gabriel tells her that she will bear the Son of God and the promised Messiah. What would you be thinking if you were in her shoes? It’s a lot to process. But Gabriel isn’t done. The 3rd assertion is that…
III. Jesus is the Holy God-Man (vv. 34–35).
Gabriel tells us two more important truths about the baby in vv. 34–37. 1st…
Jesus will be virgin-born. Mary initiates this one. Notice her reply to Gabriel in v. 34. If you were Mary, what would be your first question? I don’t know what I would ask, but Mary reads the encyclopedia for fun, so she begins with the anatomical challenges of Gabriel’s announcement.
She clearly understood Gabriel to mean that she would conceive immediately, long before she consummated her marriage to Joseph. Therefore, she wants to know how an unmarried virgin can possibly become pregnant.
Gabriel responds in v. 35 with a profound answer (read). This language about the Holy Spirit hovering over Mary recalls God’s presence with Israel in the wilderness where the Glory Cloud hovered over the tabernacle.
It also reflects God’s creative power. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters” (Gen 1:1–2).
Just as the Spirit hovered over the formless earth to create all that we know, Gabriel says he will now God will draw near to Mary and cause a miraculous conception. Jesus will be virgin-born. This is the biggest difference between Gabriel’s announcements to Zechariah and Mary. The OT tells many stories of God opening the wombs of previously infertile women. God loves to display his glory by helping the weak. And God profoundly used several of these children—Isaac, Jacob, Samson, and Samuel.
But there’s only one virgin birth. That’s because there’s only one God-man. And while God gave Israel many deliverers/saviors, only one Savior is able to deliver us from our greatest threat—eternal punishment in hell. The virgin birth clearly sets Jesus apart as unique from every other baby that has ever been born.
It does need be said that because Jesus was born of a woman, he was truly a man. He didn’t have divine blood, and he didn’t just look like a man. No, he was one of us. Hebrews 2 says he had to be one of us in order to act as our substitute on the cross. Jesus conception means that he is truly a man with a true human nature. He is one of us.
But the virgin birth also means he is entirely unique. He has no sin nature, and he is qualified to be our Savior. We saw a couple weeks ago in Romans 5, that Jesus is not just another son of Adam. As the Son of God, he is able to be a 2nd Adam who can establish a new race of redeemed people who are destined for heaven. We should all be so thankful for the virgin birth. It’s the difference between hopeless damnation and eternal hope with Christ. 2nd…
Jesus is the holy Child (read). Gabriel’s point is that Jesus will be wholly set apart as God to the purposes of God. There never has been, and there never will be another child like Jesus.
We all need a Savior because unlike Jesus, we are all sinners who are condemned in Adam. The Bible is clear that you cannot reach God on your own. We need a Savior; therefore, we should be so thankful that God provided one. Jesus is the holy God-man. He alone could pay the price for our sins, and he did just that when he died on the cross in our place.
It doesn’t matter what you have done. Jesus’ death is sufficient to cover it all. And it doesn’t matter what other lord rules your life; he is better than them all. Receive Christ if you have never done so.
Returning to Mary’s humble home in Nazareth, this is obviously a lot to take in. Gabriel just told her that she will miraculously conceive the Son of God and Israel’s promised Messiah. And as always God is compassionate toward human weakness and offers Mary some valuable reassurance. Mary’s response drives home a 4th assertion of the text.
IV. Jesus deserves our confidence (vv. 36–38).
We see the Lord’s compassion in the assurances of vv. 36–37. Mary and Elizabeth were related, and Mary knew that Elizabeth was old and had lost all hope of ever having a child. But God doesn’t know normal human limits. Gabriel announces to Mary that Elizabeth is 6 months pregnant!
Again, a virgin birth is much harder than a barren woman conceiving, but it still serves as significant assurance that God can do this.
Then Gabriel follows with the simple but profound assurance of v. 37. God is God. He is infinite and almighty. There is nothing that God cannot do. He created the universe with his word, and certainly he can make a virgin conceive.
And Mary believes the Lord. She replies, “Behold…” Another difference between this announcement and the previous one is that Mary demonstrates greater faith than Zechariah the priest even though she was asked to believe a greater miracle (v. 20).
Mary doesn’t receive any such rebuke. Instead, she believes God, she calmly submits to the Father’s will, and she offers herself as “the bondslave of the Lord.” It’s a powerful response.
There’s no reason for us to respond any differently. The only reason anyone doubts this account is because they refuse to believe v. 37, despite abundant reason to believe it is so. Jesus was born of a virgin. He is the Son of God and the promised Savior. He is worthy of all your confidence.
So, if you have never put your faith in Jesus for salvation, please do so today. He will save you from your sins, and he will transform your life. We’d love to talk with you about the greatest gift ever given.
And if you are saved, worship Christ today as the true Son of God and son of man. Give thanks for all that he has done for you in Christ. And then model the sacrificial love of Jesus to everyone around you. Give the way Christ has given to you.
More in Miscellaneous Sermons
November 20, 2022Overcoming Complaining
October 23, 2022The Goodness of God
July 10, 2022Steve Pettit from Bob Jones Universitity