The Day of Heartbreak meets the Day of Triumph - Fourth Sunday in Advent
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
Luke 1:26-38
December 20, 2020

On this last Sunday in Advent, as our celebration of the birth of Christ draws near, we come to the time and place where the Angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee, called Nazareth. Gabriel was sent there to meet a young woman by the name of Mary. She was betrothed to a man by the name of Joseph, of the house of King David. Mary was a virgin. That is an incredibly important fact, for it tells us that Jesus would not be infected with the corruption of Adam. It also tells us that Jesus was not conceived by the power, plan, or purpose of any man. God sent the Angel to Mary to make an incredibly important announcement to her.

Mary was an insignificant young woman, on worldly terms; but not on God’s terms. On God’s terms, Mary was highly favored by God. Of all women, she would give birth to the One called Son of God.

As we think about Mary and her Son, we could also think another woman in human history of supreme and singular importance. Her name was Eve. She was our first mother and the mother of all of us. There is a very important connection between Eve and Mary. On a most important day, at the beginning of the human story, Eve received the promise of the Son born of woman who would crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15). This promised Son of Eve would destroy the devil’s work of sin, death, ruin, and misery. Eve had succumbed to the devil’s work. Then she began to experience it; it was not something she had experienced before.

The promise was given to Eve on the day she ate the forbidden fruit in faithless disobedience and disregard of God’s express command, “Thou shall not eat of it (Genesis 2:16). Then she realized in what must have been indescribable pain and terror of conscience: “what have I done;” but which could not be undone; but which her promised Son would undo, though He would suffer in the process. It was a day of supreme Heartbreak. But in the midst of the Heartbreak, God spoke a promise, full of grace and hope.

Now Mary, this daughter of Eve, the most significant woman of all women, will be the woman from whom the Son will be born; the long-awaited for Son. The Angel announces to Mary that she is the daughter of Eve who will bring the promised Son of Eve into the world. And Mary must call His Name Jesus, which means savior, for He will redeem all mankind from sin and the condemnation it brings. He will redeem mankind from sin’s penalty, death. He will deliver us from the devil, who taught human beings how to sin, who teaches us still the dark art of lawlessness and hurt, that brings alienation from God and the corrupting and breaking of our own nature and world.

Eve and Mary are connected in God’s plan over all the centuries. They are connected by a promise given in the Day of Heartbreak that is fulfilled on the Day of wonder and awe at what God can do.  

So God sends an Angel to Mary to announce the pregnancy and most important birth ever. The Angel becomes the form of the way God delivered the announcement to Mary. By sending the Angel, God communicated that heaven is the measure of all things; that humanity is not. This means that God will accomplish redemption of human beings by His own power and grace. Human beings can think that they are pretty clever because of their technological ingenuity, because of their philosophical musings, because of the ability to acquire wealth and power. But sin and death still remain unconquered by all such human ingenuity and striving after things. We need a deliverer.

So God sends an Angel to deliver a message to fallen and hurting humanity. It is a message that is full of God’s accomplishment, of God’s power, of God’s grace. The fact that the message was delivered by an Angel confirms this. For the Angel is not of human devising or possibility, just as the salvation the Angel announced is not of human power or devising. And how appropriate that the name of this Angel is Gabriel, for as this name comes to us from Hebrew, it means something like “God is my strength.”

For those of us who grow weary of the human being making itself the measure of all things, the fact that God sent an Angel can be so refreshing and inspiring. For in the Angel, as the way God delivered the announcement of this great Son, and in the Son’s appearing and the mission He accomplished, there is a rejoicing in God. There is a rejoicing in God’s power, and in His grace. And then there is a rejoicing because the salvation God procured for us is good, and wonderful, and solid, and sure, and everlasting. This is so as the Son of heaven, becomes the Son of Eve, who redeems all the sons and daughters of Eve from sin and death. He comes to win the Day of God’s Everlasting Triumph in the face of the human Day of Heartbreak.

So the announcement is absolutely important and absolutely unique. You will become pregnant, Mary, with a Son. You shall call His Name Jesus, Mary, which means Savior. He will be great, Mary, and will be called the Son of the Highest. God will give to Him the throne of His father David, fulfilling the long-awaited for promise to David that He would have a Son reign on his throne forever; that the reign of this Son would be everlasting. No son of David ever fulfilled that promise, not even Solomon. Only Jesus does.

But Mary’s Son will not reign on a physical throne in a physical kingdom on earth. Rather, He will reign at the right hand of God having risen from the dead, having obtained an eternal redemption. From there He will reign in hearts captured by His grace and love in the gift of forgiveness and promise of life, won by Him and given; given just because God wants to give in order to redeem, so that we can live.

Mary is stunned, flabbergasted. Her mind is trying to catch up with what she has just heard. It was difficult enough to catch up to the fact that she was talking to an Angel, having been startled by his sudden appearance. She is startled even more by the words that Gabriel spoke.

But she does catch up and asks a quite relevant question. How can this be? That is, how can I get pregnant with a son because I am have not yet had relations with a man?

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, says Gabriel, and the power of God will overshadow you. Because of this, your holy child will be called Son of God (Luke 1:35).

God is the measure of all things here. God will do it by His own power. That way Mary’s Son will be holy, untainted by sin, which is passed down through Adam. That way, as Mary’s Son is conceived by the Holy Spirit, all the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve can count on the salvation He will accomplish, for it will be by God’s doing. God’s doing is sure and certain. God’s doing is by grace which we participate in by faith in the gift given to us.

To clinch this for Mary, Gabriel responds with that saying, which English versions usually translate as: “Nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37 ESV). We have heard this story so many times in English that we take this way of translating it for granted, but it is actually not quite literal. Literally, though awkwardly in English, Gabriel said, “For every word will not be impossible with God.”

The subject of the sentence is the word “word.” This is important in the context because it was the word of promise that Gabriel spoke to Mary that was at-issue for Mary. It was in response to what Gabriel said to her that Mary responded: “Let it happen to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). And it is the same word in Greek that is in both Gabriel’s statement and Mary’s response. It is the possibility or impossibility of the word spoken that is in view.

Certainly in Scripture, no circumstance, no need, no promise, no condition, no happening, is impossible for God. “Is anything too hard for the Lord?,” the Lord said to Sarah (Genesis 18:14). Nothing is too hard for the Lord, God said through Jeremiah (Jeremiah 32:17).

But in Gabriel’s announcement to Mary something more specific is in view. It is the specific word that Gabriel spoke as word. Thus, it is exceedingly important for us that Gabriel assures Mary and assures us that no word spoken by God will be impossible.

What God says is true, is true. What God says is going to happen, will happen. What God promises to us will be fulfilled, will be fulfilled in its time.

I have made you and have redeemed you in my Son, God says. I call you by my name, God says. I forgive you all your sins, God says. I give you eternal life in me, God says. I will raise you on the last day, God says. That Day is the Day of Triumph, the day when the Day of Heartbreak will be completely reversed by God’s Son. These things are spoken to us as word. And “no word from God shall be impossible with God.”

Everything God says is true. Everything He promises will come to pass. The impossibility of it in our eyes does not come into it, since God has spoken.

And so Mary spoke the faith God had worked in her heart: “Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

As Mary received in faith the fulfillment of what the Angel said to her in the conception and birth of her Son, so we receive here the salvation Her Son worked for us as He speaks the words, which we also receive by faith: this is my body, this is my blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. And as we hear His Words and eat and drink, we repeat Mary’s faith for ourselves: “Let it be to me according to your word.”

And in such faith we receive life and salvation, for where there is forgiveness of sins, won for us by Mary’s Son, given to us here, there is life and salvation. Thanks be to God. Amen.


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