Advent: Christ’s birth confirmed (Luke 1:26-33)
Dear Listeners, in these weeks of Advent, i.e. the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ into this world, we
prepare ourselves for the celebration of His birth, for Christmas. Last week we heard
about His coming as included in the birth announcement of John, the herald of the King.
The angel Gabriel came to Zechariah and said, “Your prayer has been heard; your wife
Elizabeth will bear you a son.” This son will be the forerunner of the great King; he will
go before the Lord to prepare the way for him. Then we hear how Luke in his account
of these events reports on another visit by the angel Gabriel, namely to a virgin named
Mary. To her he confirms the announcement of the birth of the Christ, the King Himself!
He will be the great King. He is called great because He is the Son of the Most High!
Great though He may be, however, yet how humble is His coming into this world. Just
the mother is informed of her special calling to become the mother of the Lord whom she
may bring into this world; others don’t hear about it. Unlike the event of Gabriel’s announcement
to Zechariah, when the people who were waiting outside became aware of
something very special having happened to him; here no one hears anything. Given the
fact that this is the announcement of the birth of a King, it is not accompanied of a special
message heralded by a royal servant. Of course not, for who is Mary anyway, who
would know this Mary who is called here to this special task?! In fact, this is part of the
Messiah’s coming in humiliation; His coming to dwell in the flesh among us, joining us in
our disgraced existence. That’s how deeply He humbled Himself already here, and much
more even when at the end of His life He gives Himself over to be crucified! That’s the
King Jesus Christ, the King whose birth is announced here! He emptied Himself of all His
glory in order to save us; He came to deliver us from the misery into which we plunged
ourselves! Indeed, that’s the King whose coming we celebrate in His first Advent!
So six months after he had come to Zechariah to announce the birth of a son, the herald
of the King, Gabriel, came to Mary. The announcement is made in the most solemn manner.
He came from the highest heaven where he stands in the presence of God. His message
this time seems even more unbelievable than the previous one! In both instances,
therefore, Luke shows clearly that it is God’s wonderful miracle by which both John and
Jesus are conceived! The conception of Jesus, however, will be the most unique that will
ever be! Dear listener, please realize that this most unbelievable announcement of this
most unique conception is made in such an extraordinary way! God sends an angel from
the highest heavens, from His very presence, to the earth…, indeed, but where? He
doesn’t go to the temple, as in Zechariah’s case, the centre of Israel’s religious and cultural
life, not to the centre of public or political life in Israel either, but rather: to a distant
place that was unknown to most, to Nazareth. It’s a town, Luke writes, where Gabriel
goes to a virgin, pledged to be married to a man, named Joseph. Who in the world
would know this place, this woman, or this man?! Remarkable! Especially since we see
Gabriel go on his most important mission ever, it’s the more remarkable when he is sent to
a most unimportant area or place! Yet, that’s the style of our God! His announcement of
the Saviour is not made where we would expect it, for the whole matter and way of our
salvation doesn’t fit our expectations! God doesn’t fit our way or patterns of life. His
way fits the life of the humble, the ones who know their own insignificance and humble
state, who realize that salvation couldn’t come from man whatever; that’s where God
comes with His work of salvation!
The gospel always is full of surprises, of amazing grace!
Mary, dear listeners, was a virgin we read, pledged to be married to a man named
Joseph. They hadn’t had their wedding day yet nor consummated their marriage; she’s
still a virgin. When the angel enters her abode he starts out with a special greeting. The
words of his greeting are unusual and special: “Greetings, you who are highly favoured!”
She is highly favoured, because by the grace of God she may become the mother
of the Saviour! These words of the angel moved Mary, and troubled her very, very much.
Understandably so, we would say. In Gabriel’s greeting you can sense the excitement
and the amazement at the message he is about to bring. No wonder he expresses this in
the manner and words of his greeting! It’s like a word of congratulation to Mary! Mary,
on the other hand, doesn’t know what’s coming to her. Gabriel may announce to her the
great plan God has with her, a gracious plan: “you will be with child and give birth to a
son, Jesus, Saviour!
Mary is favoured, dear listener, though she is a sinner like everyone else; she may bear
the Saviour of the world! That’s how you are blessed, indeed, when Jesus the Saviour enters
your life, by the grace of God, according to the plan of God! There are many today
who say “where is God?” Well, here He is, your God and Saviour! He is in His Word, in
His gift of Jesus, in the proclamation of the gospel, in His people who share in His grace in
Jesus Christ! He is the Immanuel, God with us, in whom God has come very near to us,
near to His people in this broken world! He has brought light in the darkness of our
miserable existence. He has shown His mercy to Israel, His grace to you and me! Yes, but
in order to be overwhelmed by this reality, you’ll have to know yourself as sinner, who is
in the gravest need for grace! Then you will be able to understand Mary’s bewilderment,
Mary’s joy and blessedness too, and you will join Mary in singing your praise to God for
the fact that He has come to you and known you in your very humble state as sinner in
Now it is in this humble abode of Mary, this simple girl, that the angel Gabriel comes
to visit and to announce the birth of the great king, in the house of David. In Him all the
promises are fulfilled which Samuel made, all that the prophets and psalms foretold about
Him! He will be great, and you may wonder what Mary’s expectation has been in that
regard: Jesus, her child, on the throne of David, reigning in Jerusalem, driving out the
enemies and restoring the peace to Israel? If that were the case, what has become of it, you
wonder. He became 33 years old on earth and He died a shameful death on the cross;
His disciples were plain people mostly without influence in the world. In Jerusalem the
throne of David was not restored; rather the city was destroyed in the year 70 and the
Jews were dispersed over the world. Still, the words of the angel did come true, especially
since He wanted to be small and simple, humble and plain voluntarily. He received the
royal crown as reward for His suffering and death. He told His disciples just before His
ascension to this throne, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” He
is on His throne in heaven today and He rules from sea to sea, from the River to the
ends of the earth! He rules in the hearts of His subjects by His Word and Spirit!
Yes, Jesus did become great and He still shows His greatness in defending and preserving
His church, saving people by His Word and Spirit! Do you also belong to these
people, dear listener? And would you not also want to share in all His benefits by faith
and join His people in church, hearing the voice of the church as you are doing today?
Please come, and know yourself invited by the great King Himself!