Wednesday, December 7

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In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.  The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”  Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.  – Luke 1:26-30

As we pick up the story of Christ’s birth in Luke 1, we’re let in on an angelic encounter between Mary and the angel Gabriel as she receives a birth announcement that will turn her life upside down and change the trajectory of human history.  From the beginning, God’s plan to save the world defies all conventional wisdom.  C.S. Lewis once said that one of the reasons that he believes the Gospels are true, is because nobody is crazy enough or brilliant enough to invent such things.

“…God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee…” Gabriel was a “big gun” angel, sent by God to make life-changing announcements.  Earlier in Luke 1, Gabriel appears to an old priest named Zechariah to tell him that his wife is going to have a baby in her old age (John the Baptist).  The phrase, “In the sixth month…” refers to Elizabeth, Zechariah’s wife, being six months pregnant with John the Baptist.

The region of Galilee was not a very likely choice. Judea was in the heart of Israel and it was the cultural and religious center of things, while Galilee was up in the hills to the north, and a little bit backward.  Nazareth was an even more surprising choice because it was filled with corruption and immorality.  In John 1:46, Nathaniel summed up its reputation: “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”

“…To a virgin…” The womb that was to carry the greatest of all treasures was not that of a royal princess but of a young peasant virgin.  Verse 27 mentions that fact twice.  In verse 34, after hearing what was going to happen to her, Mary herself poses the question, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”  There are those today, inside and outside of the church, who claim that belief in the virgin birth is superstitious nonsense or that it is not even necessary for a Christian to believe in it. 

Talk show host Larry King was once asked the question, “If you could select any one person across all of history to interview, who would it be?” King answered by saying that he would like to sit down and talk with Jesus Christ: “I would like to ask him if he was indeed virgin-born. The answer to that question would define history for me.”  Now I don’t know what Larry King believes, and as far as I know, Jesus has never appeared on his show.  But Larry King is right about one thing, the virgin birth does indeed define history!  There is no doubt that Jesus was born of a virgin and that He alone has defined history. And this was not just something thought of at the last minute. It was prophesied over 500 years earlier in Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

“…Pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David.”  Mary was about to be married to Joseph, who was in the legal family line of David. The prophetic promise was given to King David that the Messiah should be one of his descendants, as the King eternal, the one of whom God said, "I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever" (2 Samuel 7:13).  Isaiah said, "There shall come forth a rod out of the stem (literally 'stump') of Jesse (that is David’s father) and a Branch shall grow out of his roots" (Isaiah 11:1).  This is another reference to the Messiah, and indicates that, even after it would appear that the family tree of Jesse has been cut down, yet the very last one who could be known to have come of this lineage would finally prove to be the promised Messiah!

Joseph became the husband of Mary, though not without some agonizing doubt when he found out she was pregnant, because it is clear throughout Scripture that he is not the biological father, Matthew 1:16 is careful to specify that Jesus was born of Mary, and was not the son of Joseph.  Listen to this summary statement that appears right at the end of the Jesus’ family tree in Matthew: “…Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” This was fulfilled uniquely in Jesus. His foster father, Joseph, was in the royal line from David and thus held the legal right to the throne (Matthew 1:1-16).  His mother, Mary, was also a descendant of David, as shown by her genealogy in Luke 3:23-31.

What does all of this mean for you and me today? 
Simply put, it means 3 things; First – The Scriptures are all fulfilled in Jesus and He is the Messiah.  Second – God rarely accomplishes His plans in the manner we would predict or prefer.  Third – If God can be trusted with something as significant as the birth of our Savior, surely He can handle the details of whatever we are facing right now.

Jeff Frazier

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