Text: Luke 1:26-38
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary.
In our reading today, we hear of an unpretentious young woman, a virgin named Mary, who has a visit from an angel. What started in this small town of Nazareth would lead to a manger in Bethlehem where a baby is born who will be called holy—the Son of God.
The traditional text of the Annunciation of Mary by the angel Gabriel in Luke chapter 1 speaks of the conception of our Lord which is usually celebrated in the church year on March 25 nine months before the birth of Christ on Christmas day.
This announcement from the angel calling Mary the favored one, and telling her that the Lord is with you! You can understand that this visit was very troubling to Mary. Even to the point of the angel saying, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”
So too we who are afraid with the struggles of our daily lives which can cause fear, can find comfort.
Do not be afraid. Fear not. You too have … favor with God.
And though you don’t hear the announcement from the angel as Mary did:
31 That she … will conceive in her womb and bear a son, and shall call his name Jesus. You can have the same comfort in the child who she will give birth to, 32 … will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High and is your Lord.
[And he has been given] the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Yet, we too hear the blessed result just as true as if the angel had visited us with the same good news as we read in our epistle lesson for today:
25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— Romans 16:25-26
It is through that same word of the Lord brought to Mary that brings comfort and peace for you and me.
God called Mary for the special purpose of bringing forth the savior. She is now the temple of the Lord’s presence, just as the Lord’s presence overshadowed the temple of Israel. Mary has become the place where the Lord dwells. In her womb the fullness of the godhead is found in Christ’s bodily presence.
God has called you too, by the working of the Holy Spirit, to a special purpose by faith in his son, and through this he called you and has made you his child by this same faith. And by faith you are brought into fellowship with the creator of the universe and have peace with God.
Luther speaks of this when he says:
“The angel Gabriel terrified Mary with his [greeting], but at the end, he comforted her most sweetly [Luke 1:26-37]. Therefore, a repentance which is preoccupied with thoughts of peace is [silly]. It must express a great earnestness and deep pain if the old man [our sinfulness] is to be put off.
Luther’s works Vol. 32. Pg 40 Fortress Press
True repentance brings sorrow for sin that only the comfort of the good news of the gospel can cure. It cannot just be an appearance of repentance because appearances can be deceiving, but must be a true repentance and brokenness that turns away from sin.
There’s a story that during one of his political campaigns, a delegation called on Theodore Roosevelt at his home in Oyster Bay, Long Island. The President met them with his coat off and his sleeves rolled up. "Ah, gentlemen," he said, "come down to the barn and we will talk while I do some work." At the barn, Roosevelt picked up a pitchfork and looked around for the hay. Then he called out, "John, where's all the hay?"
"Sorry, sir," John called down from the hayloft. "I ain't had time to toss it back down again after you pitched it up while the Iowa folks were here."
Bits & Pieces, November 12, 1992, pp. 19-20.
It’s the appearance of work, versus real work or the appearance of repentance, versus true repentance? It’s like those times when the children say “Mom … I’m not feeling well. Can I stay home from school?”
The statement and the truth of its meaning may not tell the whole story.
Mary though hears the truth of the angel’s words after she asks:
“How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
35 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.
Luther says through the word of the angel, which is the word of God brought from his messenger, Mary conceives:
“ … Mary, the pure virgin, had to contribute of her seed and of the natural blood that coursed from her heart. From her [Christ] derived everything except sin that a child naturally and normally receives from its mother. [If] he is not a real and natural man, born of Mary, then he is not of our flesh and blood. Then he has nothing in common with us; then we can derive no comfort from him.”
LW Vol. 22 pg. 23
For in him God saves his people from their sin. The power of the most high, the Father, through the Holy Spirit, conceives Jesus the son in Mary. The whole Godhead is involved though only Christ takes on human flesh.
By the working of the Holy Spirit through the word you too are made God’s children and brought to faith in Christ.
Just as Mary heard the word of the angel and conceived … you hear the word of God through his means of word and sacrament and by the Holy Spirit you believe.
When sins are confessed and you hear the blessed good news that you are forgiven by Christ’s called and ordained servants, that forgiveness is the same as if you heard it from Jesus himself and your forgiveness is the same on earth as it is in heaven.
Because Jesus’ name means savior you have salvation in him. And by him and his work receive the forgiveness he won for you.
What looked ordinary, a young maiden, a virgin, a child born in a manger was very substantial. God himself has come down, becoming man and through his work you and all who believe have salvation.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!