You thought you were coming to a
Lent service tonight. But surprise! We aren’t doing Lent this evening. Instead today, March 25 is the Feast of the
Annunciation of Our Lord. The reason for
the date is very simple: March 25 is nine months before December 25 and
Christmas. The date of the Annunciation
means that it almost always takes place during Lent.
This creates an unusual
situation. We are in the season of Lent
as we prepare for Holy Week and the death of Jesus Christ. Yet the Annunciation
is about the beginning of his life as
a human being. It is about the beginning
of the Incarnation.
Lent has a very somber tone with its
focus on repentance and the preparation to remember the suffering and death of
Jesus Christ. But the Annunciation is a joyous celebration of the mystery of
the incarnation. However, what holds
these two together is the fact that the wonder of the incarnation that we
celebrate tonight had Holy Week as its goal from the very beginning. The baby in the womb of the virgin Mary was conceived
by the Holy Spirit in order to suffer and die.
Our text begins by telling us, “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.” The
phrase “sixth month” tells us that this was sixth months since Gabriel had
appeared to Zechariah and informed him that his aged wife Elizabeth was going
to have a son. That itself was quite amazing.
But even more remarkable was the fact that this child – who would be
named John – was going to be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his
mother's womb. He would go before the
Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah to make ready for the Lord a people
Gabriel appeared to Mary, a relative of Elizabeth and said, “Greetings, O
favored one, the Lord is with you!” Gabriel announced that Mary had been
shown favor by God. But Mary didn’t feel very favored. Instead she felt greatly troubled as she tried to figure out what sort of greeting
this might be.
However Gabriel told Mary not to be
afraid because she had found favor with God.
He announced that she would conceive in her womb and bear a son, whom
she would name Jesus. Then Gabriel said about this son, “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.”
Gabriel said about this child was stunning.
He was telling Mary that her son would be the fulfillment of God’s
promise to King David. Yahweh had told
David that his son Solomon would be the one to build a temple for God. He said, “He shall build a house for my name,
and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to
him a father, and he shall be to me a son and I will establish the throne
of his kingdom forever.”
Gabriel was telling Mary that her
child would be the Messiah, the descendant of David promised by God. He would reign over Israel and his kingdom
would have no end, which meant that he would be the fulfillment of all the
promises God had made about a descendant from David’s line who would bring
God’s end time salvation.
Yet Mary had a question. She was
betrothed to Joseph who descended from king David, but she was not married. And
so she asked, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Gabriel 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.”
already said that this child would be called “Son of the Most High.” Yet in the setting of God’s promise to David
this only meant that the descendants of David would stand in a unique relation
to God. God would bestow this status on them. They would be his “son” in an
was something completely different.
Mary’s child – Jesus – would have no human father. Instead the Holy Spirit would cause him to be
conceived within the virgin Mary. And therefore the child to be born would
be called holy--the Son of God. This was not a matter of being “adopted”
by God. Instead this child would be the
Son of God in his very being. He would
be true God. Yet as the One conceived by
the Spirit in Mary he would also be true man.
amazing, wonderful stuff. And yet nothing
in our text tonight leads you to expect that there will be a season of
Lent. Nothing in our text makes you
think that this child will grow up to suffer and die on a Roman cross. After
all, he is the Son of God, conceived by the work of the Holy Spirit. He is also the son of David, the One who will
have the throne of his father David, and will reign over
the house of Jacob forever, and will have a kingdom with no end.
that is the surprising thing about the way that God chooses to bring us
salvation. He sends his own Son into
this world in the incarnation. He sends
him to be numbered with transgressors – to take our place as the object of
God’s wrath against sin. Suffering and death await the child conceived in Mary
by the work of the Holy Spirit.
is not how we would do things. And in this we learn an important truth. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. God’s ways are not our ways. God works in surprising ways that often look
like failure. He works in ways that
often look like the opposite of success.
He works in the way of the cross.
is true not just of his plan of salvation. It is also true of our own lives as
God allows failure and suffering.
Certainly there are joys and successes.
But those times tend not to be when we think about God most. Instead, it is hardship that causes us to
think about God’s will for our life. It
is suffering that causes us to look to God.
As fallen people, this is often what is needed to get us thinking and
acting in God’s ways. And so indeed, God uses it for our spiritual good.
Good Friday Jesus Christ was crucified for our sins. He was wounded for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. He died and was buried. Yet the words of Gabriel to Mary about Jesus
were true because God did not allow his holy One to see corruption. Instead he
raised him from the dead on the third day. And the risen Lord opened the minds
of the disciples to understand what God had been doing. He said, “Thus it is
written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from
the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be
proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
told Mary that the Lord God would give to Jesus the throne of his
father David, and that he would reign over the house of Jacob forever. Yet when Jesus’ saving work was completed,
his exaltation proved to be far more
than this. Forty days after his
resurrection, Jesus ascended into heave and was seated at the right hand of the
throne of God. Fifty days later the
exalted Lord poured forth the Holy Spirit on his Church.
have seen in Jesus that the cross was the means by which God was at work to
save us, and that the cross was the way that led to glory for Christ. Because we have seen this in our Lord, we are
able to trust God in the midst of the circumstances that are difficult and
challenging for us. Because of Jesus
Christ, the incarnate Lord, we know that such times are not the absence of God,
but rather God at work in and for us.
Because of Jesus Christ we know that the story of our lives can only end
in one way – resurrection with our Lord, the Son of God.