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Notes from sermon preached 1 November 2009: “The Girl who said “yes” “ (Luke 1 v 26-28)
We continue with our series in Luke’s gospel, today looking at one of the most famous stories ever told – the visit of the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary in Nazareth to tell her of the birth of God’s Son.
A Divine Errand (v.26)
First we read of the angelic mission. God sent Gabriel to visit Mary. Angels are God’s messengers and operate unseen around us constantly. (Billy Graham describes angels as “God’s secret agents”) This was a special mission, entrusted to one of the most senior of God’s ambassadors. Are we available to be used by God for whatever purpose he has for us? In delivering the gospel of salvation to the world, God has chosen to use people, not angels. Are we available?
An Ordinary Girl (v.27)
The most remarkable thing about Mary is her ordinariness. Just as God chose an ordinary couple in Zechariah and Elizabeth, so he chooses an ordinary girl in Mary. This is great news for us all. God’s purposes are not limited to those that the world considers to be “the movers and the shakers” and the “great and the good”. Almost certainly she was a teenager at the time of God’s visitation, and a girl without rank, distinction or note. She was an ordinary girl living in enemy occupied Northern Israel, engaged to the local carpenter. God chooses the nobodies of this world.
An Extra-ordinary Encounter (v.28-29)
As we saw with Zechariah, God doesn’t always show up at the big event, the religious ceremony. We don’t know what Mary was doing when she had this apparition, but the Lord often comes at a time and a place when we don’t expect Him. His greeting is highly significant. He says that Mary is “highly favoured” and that God is with her. Although this has a special meaning for Mary, let us be aware that this applies to every person who comes under the sound of the word of God. We are “highly favoured”. We live in a day of grace when God has suspended his judgement and reaches out to us in love. Just as the Lord was with Mary, so the Lord is with us. Do we respond accordingly?
An Awesome Promise (v 30-33)
The conversation moves up a gear as the Gabriel proceeds to unravel some of the most awesome words ever spoken about a new child. Every new child is special – but this one… We may assume that Mary, having grown up in a Jewish setting was familiar with the promises of the Messiah. Her head must have spun as she realised that the very promises which were the hope of her entire nation were being projected onto her unborn child.
The promises made to Mary were unique – but we must not forget that God’s purposes for each of us and for us as a church are far bigger than any of us could dare hope. Are we awake to the possibilities of God’s dealing with us?
A Request for Information (v.34)
But wait…there’s a problem!
Gabriel has been talking about the birth of the Messiah. In a mind-blowing prophecy he has promised that the child would be Mary’s. Now, that is hard enough to cope with. But now the angel seems to be suggesting that this is an imminent event. Surely the angel is talking about when she and Joseph were happily married and settled – some time hence? Or is he? So Mary asks for clarification. This is not unbelief (unlike the equivalent response of Zechariah). In fact it shows more than ever Mary’s commitment as she says, in effect: “I have kept God’s requirement to keep myself pure, and have every intention of continuing to do so”
An Earth-Shattering Clarification (v.35-37)
And now Gabriel gives the response that must have torn Mary’s world apart. Gabriel announces the miracle of the ages. God would become man. A child would be born without human intervention or a man’s seed. A virgin would give birth to the son of God. As if to back up his words, Gabriel pointed to the reality of Elizabeth – barren, but now six months pregnant. God can do anything!
God can do anything – but the implications for Mary were unthinkable. More on this below, but let’s think for a minute about the miraculous nature of what Gabriel promised. For a woman, sinful like any other, to conceive and carry the Son of God is unique. But it is equalled in its miraculous nature by the mystery and the miracle of the Son of God, by his Spirit, coming to take up residence in each of God’s children. The virgin birth is re-enacted in every believer. As the old hymn writer says:
“How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven”
“O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray.
Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today”
A Huge Decision
God generally does not impose imposes his will on anyone in this life. We choose to embrace or reject the will of God. Mary has a choice here. Questions like” What will Joseph say” “How will I cope” What will this mean for me” must have run through her head. There is always a decision to be taken to embrace the will of God. Are we prepared to take it? Heaven waits whilst Mary decides how to respond to this heavenly visitation. The destiny of the human race hangs in the balance whilst she pauses to respond. Again, whilst Mary’s situation is unique we know little of what is at stake whilst we choose how we respond to the will of God.
An Amazing Response (v.38)
And then, finally the response comes “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said”. In other swords – whatever the cost, wherever it takes me, whatever it means I joyfully embrace the will of God. Is that your response to God?
A Heavenly “Amen”
The narrative tells us that the angel then left. Mary had said “yes” – the die was cast. But it was not only Mary that had to say “yes”. The Holy Spirit had to be willing to come and take up residence in a sinful human being. The Father had to be prepared to be parted from His beloved Son. And the Son of God had to be willing to leave the glories of heaven and suffer the pain of death on a cross for god’s will to be done. Whatever cost there is in us following God, he has paid a higher one still.
A Plan in Motion
And with this the wheels are in motion. God’s plan is truly underway. In a few short months planet earth would be visited by its Creator, in human form
But that’s another story.
Questions for discussion
- What was there about Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that would most have troubled her?
- What are the characteristics that Mary shows here that we should most admire?
- On the surface of it, Mary’s initial response to Gabriel in verse 34 appears similar to that of Zechariah in verse 18. Yet Gabriel’s reaction is very different? Why is this?
- Mary said “yes” to God. What are the consequences for us as we say “yes” to God? And what are the consequences if we say “no”?
- Is there any way in which you need to be saying “yes” to God at the moment?