Text: Luke 1:26-38
“Ask a sign of the Lord your God,” the Lord said to King Ahaz in Isaiah 7. “Let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” The Lord had sent the Isaiah the prophet to King Ahaz to assure him that Judah’s enemies in the north would not overtake her. The Lord told Ahaz to ask for a sign and the king, feigning piety, refused. God, then, responded to him, saying, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” The Lord reiterated through Isaiah the promise He first gave to Adam and Eve in the Garden – that one would come to crush the head of Satan and deliver God’s people from all their fears. This one to come would be born of a virgin, God said, and he would, in fact, be God Himself.
In our text this evening from Luke 1, we hear of this promise being fulfilled. The angel Gabriel was, once again, sent by God. This time, he was sent to a young virgin named Mary. She was betrothed to a man of the house of David named Joseph. Though they had not yet come together, she would conceive and give birth to a son who would reign over the house of Jacob forever. This visit of Gabriel to Mary is called the Annunciation, and here the Lord makes true His promise to save His people from their sins.
For our Advent midweek services this year we are working our way through Luke 1, recalling the announcements of John and Jesus’ birth, and also the visit of Mary to Elizabeth. Last week, we heard the announcement of John the Baptist’s birth. His parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, were well-advanced in years and, moreover, were barren. While Zechariah was in the temple offering incense to the Lord, Gabriel appeared and told him that their prayers had been heard. His wife Elizabeth would conceive and give birth to a son, and they would call his name John. Gabriel said, this child would bring great joy to his parents and to all people, for he is the forerunner of the Lord. With this word to Zechariah, the Lord was at work hearing and answering the prayers of His people. In our text tonight, He is beginning the work of our salvation.
Six months after Elizabeth had conceived John the Baptist, Gabriel was again sent by God. This time he went to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man of the house of David; her name was Mary. Gabriel said to her, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” Mary was troubled by this – as, often in Scripture, seeing an angel is distressing – and began trying to figure out what sort of greeting this was. Gabriel encouraged her, for – by faith – she had found favor with God. Then, Gabriel said, “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus. 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 of His kingdom there will be no end.”
Mary asked Gabriel how this would all happen, since she had not known a man. Gabriel answered, “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.” The child which she would carry and give birth to would be no ordinary child, but the very God of very God – in the flesh. Gabriel gave Mary a sign that this would surely come to pass. He said, “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.” After these words, the angel departed.
Now, the question we Lutherans always ask – as Mary did in the text – is, what does this mean? What does it mean that Mary would conceive and give birth to a son named Jesus? Well, it means that God remembers and keeps His promises. The Lord is not subject to time and its decay. Rather, all time to God is as the present is to us. He is at the same time able to make the promise to Adam and Eve and begin fulfilling it here, at the Annunciation. The Annunciation is also the time where Christ’s Incarnation begins. As in the Lord’s Supper, the Word makes the elements the true body and blood of Christ, so also at the Annunciation the Word of the Lord spoken through Gabriel causes Mary to conceive. The name Jesus signifies the purpose of this event. It means, “The Lord saves.”
As we consider the meaning of the Annunciation, we should also consider the depth of our God’s great love for us. The God of God, the Light of Light, the very God of very God who was begotten of the Father before all worlds, entered into our world by taking on our same flesh. He submitted Himself to be born of a humble virgin to become like us in every respect. He entered into His own creation not to rule it, but to serve it – giving His life as ransom for us. And, it all begins, with the word spoken by Gabriel to Mary. The Holy Spirit worked through that Word, and Mary conceived Him whose birth we’ll celebrate in just a few short days.
At the Annunciation, the Lord showed that He is able to remember and does keep His promises. He first announced to Adam and Eve that He would send an offspring to rescue them from sin and death. Through Isaiah, He announced to King Ahaz that this offspring would be God-in-the-flesh and born of a virgin. Through Gabriel, the Lord announced that Mary was the virgin, and her Son Jesus would save us all. Thanks be to God. Amen.