Christmas should be a challenging time as we think about its meaning and the implications of it for each of us. Instead we worry about the gifts, the shopping, the decorations, the parties. If we think about the Christmas story at all, we have made it saccharine sweet, and not challenging at all. So on Thinking Thursdays this month I’m going to re-examine the Christmas story.
In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:26-28)
The time was not promising for Israel. They were living under occupation by Rome and had fallen a long way from their original status as God’s people. The place, Galilee, was far away from anywhere and not important. Galilee was on the border of Israel and looked down on. The person, Mary, was a nobody. A nowhere girl in a nowhere town at an inauspicious time.
God’s calling of Mary
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God.” … “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” “For nothing is impossible with God.” Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:29, 30, 37, 38)
This is God breaking into creation – there has been nothing like this since Adam, suggesting that here was another Adam, who was going to start a new race. Jesus was without sin, so the passing on of the sinful nature from the first Adam was broken.
An act of God’s initiative
A demonstration of God’s power and authority
An act of grace: Good news not judgement, salvation announced
‘For no word from God will ever fail’ (v37 new NIV)
God’s promise of Jesus
You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month.” (Luke 1:31-36)
When the tabernacle was built in the wilderness, there was a point when even Moses could not go in, because the cloud that signified God’s presence came down and filled it. This is what it would be like for Mary. This was the fulfilment of God’s promise years before to establish an eternal kingdom. This means God’s good will and generosity forever – and you are invited in.
[With thanks to Chris Walley, Pantygwydr Baptist Church, Swansea]