Scripture: 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. Luke 1:26-38 ESV
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Observation: Recapping Yesterday’s Daily Focus, Luke chronicles Gabriel’s announcement to the elderly and childless priest Zechariah (while serving at the temple altar) that he would soon be a father to a son who would prepare the way for the Messiah. Gabriel further instructed Zechariah to name his son John and informed him that the Holy Spirit would dwell in him, so he must not drink fermented beverages that would cloud his judgment. And John would prepare the way for the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah, calling Israel to repentance. But Zechariah unwisely questions Gabriel about the feasibility of his prophecy. So Gabriel grants him a sign: he’s muted until John is born. Thus, he communicates through gestures until after Elizabeth gives birth. In contrast, Elizabeth thanks God for removing the shame of her barren womb.
In today’s reading, God again summons the angel Gabriel to make an all-important announcement to the betrothed virgin, Mary, that she is highly favored and that the Lord is with her. Confused and frightened, Gabriel comforts Mary and reiterates that God has found favor in her. Thus, he has chosen her to conceive a son, which she is to name Jesus (a derivation of Joshua, which means “God is Salvation”). Gabriel adds that he will become known as the “Son of the Most High” and reign over the house of Jacob forever.
Unlike Zechariah, who questioned the feasibility of Elizabeth conceiving in old age (asking for a sign), Mary asks how this will happen since she is a virgin. So Gabriel gently explains that the Holy Spirit will “overshadow” her, bringing forth life in the origin of the Christ-child, the Son of God. And he offers a sign to show nothing is impossible with God: Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, is six months pregnant. Satisfied, Mary proclaims, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (v.38). So Gabriel departs.
Takeaway: Certain words stand out in Gabriel’s announcement about:
- Mary: favored by God (vv.28, 30).
- God the Father: “Most High” (vv.32, 35).
- God the Son: Son of Most High (v.32) and Son of God (v.35).
- God the Holy Spirit: in conjunction with the power of the Most High (v.35).
As such, Luke provides us with two critical truths of our historical church doctrine:
- The virgin conception: Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit under the power of the “Most High,” thus circumventing inherited sin.
- The Trinity: the Father and the Holy Spirit will work together seamlessly to incarnate the Son in perfect oneness—three persons, one substance.
Then, as if anticipating his audience may struggle with the magnitude of this phenomenal announcement, Luke carefully inserts one more detail to lend to its credibility: “For nothing will be impossible with God” (v.37). This is certainly enough said for Mary, for she responds that she is the Lord’s servant, ready for all Gabriel has said to find fulfillment in her.
Our takeaway? First, as we read and reflect on this stunning announcement, we are called to respond like Mary and believe that nothing is impossible with God. This truth echoes throughout Scripture, particularly with Jesus, whether admonishing his disciples for their little faith (Matthew 17:20-21) or challenging them to trust that what is impossible with man is possible with God (Luke 18:27). Secondly, we will do well to follow Mary’s two-part exemplary response:
- I am your servant.
- Fulfill your word (will) in me.
Is there any wonder why God chose Mary? Indeed, the mother of Jesus raised him in a home where she modeled servitude, sacrifice, and humility. And her Son fulfilled his role as Isaiah’s Suffering Servant who came into our world not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for us (Mark 10:45). And the only way we will walk upright in his direction is if we believe that nothing is impossible with God.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son who always walked upright, believing with each step of his journey toward Calvary that nothing is impossible with you. Still, we confess that we, his disciples, struggle to embrace this truth, stumbling over our doubts. So would you please help us to follow Mary’s godly example and persevere as servants of Christ, walking upright in his path, seeking to fulfill his and your words in us? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling