The Surprise of Christmas


Peninsula Community Church

The Surprise of Christmas

December 4, 2016

Luke 1:26-38 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 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, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 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. 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. For nothing will be impossible with God.” 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. 

I do not know about you but I love Christmas and the mystic about the holiday. There are presents under the tree that have been carefully chosen and wrapped to maximize the surprise as the gift is opened. I am sure, like me, there have been times when you opened a gift thinking that it would be one thing only to find it was something totally different. What a surprise when you open the one gift that you have been longing for and you have no clue about the gift.

The story before us today is a story of surprise. In the story there is an event that takes a young woman in Nazareth totally by surprise. Mary, this young virgin teen, was engaged to Joseph. She was going about her daily tasks and was living life as she always had. She was preparing for her wedding day and helping around her home, just as she would have any other day. When she arose that morning she never would have guessed that she would receive a message that would shake her world and change her for the rest of her life.

Before we look at some of the specific details of the story, let me review some of the background to the story. Mary and Joseph had been engaged which was the first step in the marriage ritual for the Jewish people. There was a commitment to stay pure in terms of their sexuality. There was a commitment to begin to plan and put their household in order for their wedding day. In essence, according to Jewish law being engaged or betrothed meant they were already married but there was a process they had to follow in order to consummate the marriage on their wedding night. According to Scripture both Joseph and Mary had been faithful to their vows.

Mary was a young girl in the town of Nazareth. There was nothing special about Mary that would have given any indication that she would have been chosen by God for this amazing task. I don’t know why but God often chooses to use some of the most unknown and unrecognizable people to bring about His will. She lived in Nazareth a small town with no notoriety. Nazareth was not the kind of town that people expected to have a miracle take place. In John 1:45-46 Nathanael asked the probing question “Can anything good come out of Nazareth.” There was not much respect for the small town of Nazareth.

Can you imagine the moment this event occurred? She was minding her own business and suddenly an angel was greeting her. Gabriel met her with an amazing greeting that was about to rock her world. Speak of a surprise! How surprised do you think Mary was? The angel’s message was simply “You are favored and the Lord is with you.” The Greek word kecharitomene is an amazing word. It is made up of three parts. The root of the word is the word “grace.” We know that grace is the unmerited favor of God that is supernaturally endowed upon us. The suffix of the word is mene which indicates that Mary is the one being acted upon. Mary was not the one who brought herself into this state of grace but it was an action of God. The prefix ke indicates that the action has been completed in the past with its results continuing in full effect in the present. In other words, the work of grace has already been given and had been worked out on her behalf.

She was the recipient of great grace. In other words, she was having this encounter not because she somehow deserved it or had somehow merited the visitation. She was having this interaction for only one reason. She had been chosen by God. God saw her not as a young virgin girl but as a chosen vessel He could use to bring about His will. She was not perfect, but as we know from Scripture no one is righteous in themselves (Romans 3:11) because all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). She was no exception as she was chosen not because of her works but because of the work of God.

As you might imagine she was troubled by the announcement of the angel. It is noteworthy that she was not troubled by the angel or fearful of the angel but her fear and trouble was in the announcement itself. How would you have reacted to such news? She was to be the mother of Jesus. She was chosen to be the vessel through which Jesus, the Messiah, would be born and would change the world. Spiritually, God desires to do that through us today. He has chosen us as a vessel through which He can be manifested and His name can be known. He came to live in us so we would be like Him and the world would experience Him through us. We have His favor!

The angel responded to her fear by saying to her “Do not be afraid.” That is an amazing statement when you think about it. Here is Mary being approached an angel and Mary’s response was “How can this be?” In essence, what she was saying in the modern language is “Are you kidding me? Are you serious?”  The reality is that Mary was awestruck by the calling she was given. What was she going to do? She was perplexed by the news which speaks of her humility and honesty. Then again, it’s not every day that one gets a cold call from a divine messenger.

We do get this from time to time. It can be a moment in a sermon or in a conversation. It can be during a quiet walk in the woods or in prayer that God taps you on the shoulder and says, “Hey you. Yes, you the favored one!” It forces us to question ”Me? Favored? By God? You must have mistaken me for someone else.” No matter how many times or in what form we hear, “yes it is you and you are the favored one,” we have the hardest time believing we are the ones being addressed. For some, it is because their relationship with God is grounded in fear. For others, it is because their faith is overshadowed by the problems of life and the largeness of the calling.

Mary had so many questions and concerns. After all she was a virgin and how could she become pregnant without breaking her marriage vows? What would Joseph think? What would Joseph do? It was in his power to legally divorce her. If this happened, the community could reject her and in fact they could stone her if they chose. But once again, Gabriel responds with an amazing statement. He stated that the Holy Spirit will come upon her.

Here is what Gabriel is saying. While you are fearful and concerned, the Holy Spirit will come and fill you. Yes this is an amazing task for you to accomplish. It is an amazing calling but the Holy Spirit will be there to guide you and help you all along the way. When you falter He will be there to assist you and help you. The angel states that the Lord will be with her and that the Holy Spirit will come upon her. The angel is saying He is there and she is covered. She will be protected. When you think about this we see the Trinity at work. Jesus will be in her. The Holy spirit will be upon her, and God will be along side of her. How amazing and wonderful is that.

As Mary is pondering the question of how can this be, the angel makes another amazing statement. “Nothing will be impossible.” Then he announces that her aunt Elizabeth is pregnant. She had been deemed too old to have children but with God nothing is impossible. What Gabriel was saying is, if God can take a worn out, old, barren woman who is past her prime and give her a child, a miracle can be done in you as well. There is nothing too hard for God. If God can touch Elizabeth, then He can surely pregnant a young healthy virgin. In this story there are two great miracles: the birth of Jesus and the birth of John the Baptist.

In the final part of this verse we find Mary’s response and what an awesome response it is. She says: “Let it be according to your word.” She relents and accepts God’s calling and purpose for her life. What she his saying is God I don’t understand it and I don’t know how to put all of this in perspective but I trust you and I receive your word and your calling. I accept your grace and power to see me through this.

Notice the connection between the call of Mary and the presence of God in this story. We are reminded that His name would be called Emmanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23). From the beginning of His life He is with us. The entirety of the Godhead is available to us for guidance, protection, and being guarded. When God calls you He does not make a mistake. He knows you and He knows where you live. He does not come and go; He is is with us always.

So what do we do with this story? We make it our own. We see that God can do the impossible in us. Are you expecting? Do you know that God can surprise us and call us to a miraculous walk with Him? The grace of God is seeking you today to let you know that He is in you, upon you and along side of you to reveal Himself to you. It may in the mundane that He comes but He is there.

Know this, you are highly favored because you have been called by God. He chose you because He had a plan and He knows you. His grace comes to us not because we are worthy but because of God. In every circumstance and stage of life, His grace comes. The enemy of our soul would rather you think that you are a failure and that there is not hope. But that is a lie. The enemy wants us to believe that there is no hope, that we have failed, and we are not worthy but that is not God’s calling or purpose for us.

Here is a second idea that we need to know about the grace of God. He knows where we are and He knows us, knows our problems, and He knows the depth of the pain and heartache you are experiencing. He knows your fears. He knows your doubts. He wants to come to you today and give you His grace. He wants to touch your heart. In the video we watched early in the service it is so easy to neglect and walk right by the gift of grace that God has given us. But don’t do that today. Open your heart to God’s grace. Mary did!

If you need or want the grace of God today I ask that you open your heart and do what Mary did. Her final reply was “Let it be according to your Word!” Whatever you need to do today “Lord I am asking you to do that. Give me grace to endure. Give me grace to speak truth in love.” His grace is a great grace and it is all we need today.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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