UNEXPECTED Grace | Mary | Luke 1:26-56
Topic: Gospel Passage: Luke 1:26–1:56
Introduction | Where do we stand?
Good Morning Welcome to Damascus Road where we are Saved by Jesus Work, Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus’s Mission. Today we are finishing brief series during Advent (Arrival) where we are looking at “Unexpected Christmas” as we have seen how God shows up in unexpected ways to unexpected people. In Jesus, God speaks to our Doubt (Zechariah), brings us Hope (Elizabeth), meets us in our Circumstances (Joseph), gives us Grace (Mary), and answers our Waiting (Simeon).
The story of Christmas found in the gospel is unexpected. For the people of God, God had been silent for 400 years. Many of them felt forgotten and yet, in the quiet, dark countryside, God remembered and came to them, not how they expected. He came in the form of a baby, not to the king or powerful leaders, but to the lowly, the poor, the young and the old. The gospels capture each person’s response when they encountered the angel or Jesus and those emotions capture our emotions at Christmas. In the same way, we will look at the Christmas story and see the many emotions we feel at Christmas and see that God is with us in all those places. When we come to this time of year we can find ourselves in places of insecurity.
We start to ask a lot of questions about our life. How did the year go? What about next year? How is my health? Where do I stand with my job situation? What about this family or friend relationship? How is my parenting? What are the questions you’re asking? Behind all these questions are bigger questions, what we’re really asking is “Where do I stand with myself, other, and really God?” Am I significant? Is God near? What is my purpose? God seems distant there is a gap. I feel insignificant in the scope of the world or history. This impacts our sense of purpose. It can lead us toward a downward spiral. Then we see Mary, a young woman, in a forgotten rural town, pledged to be married to a local carpenter who has an angelic visit and gives birth to Jesus. When we think of Mary, we often think of nativity scenes or Christmas carols. We either saint her and for some even worship her or make too little of her. She is significant and in her story we find a picture of God’s grace needed, given, received, spread, and responded to, that is for us too!
PART I |Grace is Unexpected | Luke 1:26-38
Luke 1:26-38 | 26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 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, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel 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. 36 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. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Grace closes a gap - A distance covered – There is a distance between us and God. God being Holy, Good, and Perfect and good and we are… not… Gabriel went from God to Galilee. From the throne room of the sovereign of the universe the most destitute region of a poor oppressed nation, during a time of great darkness. That is a significant gap! That is an act of grace to go from God to Galilee for the purpose of bringing good news!
God sends a one-on-one personal messenger to a poor teenage girl named Mary to announce her part in God’s gift to His people. This isn’t just some rookie angel either. Mary doesn’t get Clarence from “It’s a Wonderful Life” this is Gabriel (one of two angels named in all of scripture) who early in Luke 1 says he “stands in the presence of God”. What is about to happen to Mary is pretty important and God doesn’t want to risk anything getting lost in the mail. Because Grace covers a great distance, it is available to us regardless of our place and status.
Grace in unearned – We’ve looked at Elizabeth who lived a long faithful life serving God and was granted this great favor of becoming pregnant after decades of barrenness. You could say “Sure, she endured much, she earned it” but Mary? She’s young (likely no more than 15), she’s a poor girl in a poor region. She’s proven nothing! If fact if you were going to give the great responsibility of carrying and raising God the Son to someone you’d look for a the experienced mom who had already raised a few, worked out some of the kinks, homeschools, lead a bible study, whose husband has a great job with resources and influence. But that is not how grace works. Because grace is unearned it is available to us regardless of our accomplishments or lack thereof.
Grace moves us from Fear to Favor- Greeting Favored One – God is with you! Visited by an angel she is told despite contrary circumstances she is ‘favored by God’. It doesn’t seem like it does it? What about her life seems that great or favored? Now there is the aberration of an angel before her. This is incredibly unsetting. She was “greatly troubled”, and trying to discern (reconcile, make sense) out of all this. Can you blame her? This is a lot to process. Her fear and disorientation are palatable to Gabriel who simply tells her “do not be afraid” not because hearing a message from God isn’t a bit distressing but because “you have found favor with God” God has sent you a message so you know where you stand with God.
God’s grace can come in an instant and change you in the blink of an eye, OR Grace can be heard in a way that begins you on a journey toward the truth of who God is and how He has been gracious to you. Mary asks questions, she is trying to sort things out rationally, she’s listening but she is still in process. Because grace moves us from fear to favor our experience and reception of God grace can be a process.
Grace comes from Jesus’ living in you – Gabriel doesn’t tell Mary you have favor because “you’re pretty amazing, you do you, God is so impressed with you”. Rather, He tells here God’s favor to you is going to be Jesus living in you. You are going to have a son, who will be great, the Son of the “Most High” God. He is going to be king. His kingdom rule and blessing of His people, will last forever and will expand to included everything. This big cosmic story of God dwelling with His creation to lead and love His people will also have an individual story of Christ in you. Mary’s story is the story of every Christian. If you are a Christian the Holy Spirit has filled you and as Col 1:27 says Christ is IN you, the hope of Glory! Because Grace comes from Jesus dwelling in us, it cannot be a result what we have done but what’s been done for us.
Grace is Miraculous- To be clear the Bible doesn’t spare any details and mentioned 3 separate times (including Mary herself) in these verses that Mary is a virgin. Mary, apparently knowing how babies are made (she just had sex ed at Nazareth Jr High), is rightly confused because she is a virgin. In the Greek it is literally (I have not known a man) More than unlikely, this conception will be miraculous. This child will be born of a woman (fully man) and but conceived by the Holy Spirit (fully God). His name is to be Jesus. Gabriel tells her “A miracle, the miracle, of a virgin giving birth to a savoir king prophesized centuries earlier is going to happen to/though you Mary. His name will be Jesus, which means God Saves, so don’t be afraid. God is with you!” The arrival of Jesus nothing less than a miracle. God has already begun working in miraculous ways by opening the barren womb of Elizabeth, but God is going to do even more!
“Natural processes could not have brought the son of God…It is beyond the capacity of human parent to produce a child who is God. Humankind cannot bring forth a Jesus, any more than it can bring forth true and lasting peace. Only God can do it. Only God will do it. Mary was just as helpless as Joseph to make this happen. The human impossibility is overcome by the irresistible power of God.”
– Fleming Rutledge, Theologian
Grace makes the impossible, possible – This includes a miraculous birth, and it includes the miracle of new birth. If you are in Christ, if you have faith and trust in Jesus a human impossibility (because of our hard hearts) has been overcome by the “irresistible power of God! If today you’re saying “that is not me, but I want it to be.” Then know God is already at work, you are in process. Get out of the way watch what God can do! If today you are saying “That is not me, and it’s impossible.” You’re not wrong. With you it is, but with God “nothing is impossible”. The Gospel of grace brings new life where there has been death or lifelessness, it brings light where there has been darkness. It brings hope where there has been hopelessness. Because Grace makes the impossible possible it means no one is beyond the reach of receiving God’s grace!
Mary responds to the angel with willingness to walk this out because she is “God’s servant”. As she processes this, she is staring with a response which is not self-focused but servant focused. She’s recognizing God’s greatness and she has a desire for these words to be true. It’s like “not my will but your will be done”
PART III |Grace Is Contagious | Luke 1:39-45
Luke 1:39-45 | 39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
Grace is disruptive - Grace is both a both a blessing and a responsibility. While God is giving a gift that will bless the entire world Mary’s life is about to become very complicated, inconvenient, at times very difficult. She leaves with “haste”. I cannot stay here. Her homelife might be complicated when she tells her parents. Her relationship with the man she’s going to marry is going to be awkward and challenging to navigate before an angel tells Joseph the same news. While Mary is “favored by God” she will endure shame and a tarnished reputation with those in her small town. She’ll be seen as either the one who slept with Joseph before they were married or one who cheated on Joseph. She is going to have to travel great distances during a time of great political and social upheaval and that’s just during the pregnancy. After birth they had to flee as exile refugees to Egypt to escape a murderous dictator who jealously orders slaughters all the male young children Later they’ll return to a town where many questioned if her son was a bastard, navigating the relationships with the other moms for years a Jesus grows up as the only boy his age as a constant reminder to the mothers of their loss. Think there might have been some isolation? All this and the implications of mothering God’s son. She’ll see His ministry take off to great heights, and she’ll see his body taken down off the cross, dead and buried. That is so much to endure. Sometimes God’s amazing grace can lead to temporary challenges in our normal worldly lives as we struggle with reconciling who we think we are and our plans with who God wants us to be and His plans to use our lives us to bless others. By God sending an individual messenger to talk with Mary God is telling her, “I'm bigger than your individual circumstances, and I will be with you no matter how difficult they seem.” What I am doing is for you, but also is so much bigger than you! You will endure much, but Christ will endure even greater for you!”
Because Grace is disruptive, we can expect God’s plan to be different than ours for His glory and our Joy.
Grace is contagious, creating Holy Spirit community of encouragement – God graciously gives us His word and He graciously gives us His people. Traveling to her elder relative, she is greeted with an ecstatic prophetic blessing. This is the gracious Gift of Community… Mary wasn’t just going to labor alone in this. She has close family to lean on. They’re both pregnant together they can share life and God’s blessing together. But there is more. Mary is given words of encouragement from Holy Spirit speaking through Elizabeth. Do you think Mary might have been doubting a bit the day, the week after meeting the angel? Do you think fear might have returned as began to think through all the implications of what receiving grace from God might mean for her life? She is given ongoing affirmation of the Grace of God in her life! When you have heard from God or thought you did “I think God might be doing this…” and what is next is the joy of have things confirmed through the Holy Spirit speaking words of encouragement to of how God is using you for His Glory?! Mary is going to have someone walk with her for months as she begins this new life with God. I’d be remised to not point out how the gospel writer, Luke the doctor, describes this scene. When Mary (and Jesus) arrived, “The Baby” leaped, Elizabeth said “the baby leapt for Joy” The first respondent to the arrival of Jesus is a baby in the womb. This is not insignificant. God’s grace is so contagious it can reach into the womb and give joy. God arrives and there is grace and joy for the unborn. Let that sink in for moment as you consider what that means for the status of the unborn as recipients of God’s grace, and let it be a balm to all you who have experienced the grief of loss of miscarriage or participated in abortion and have wondered “what about that life.” Know God’s grace can reach, anywhere even the womb.
Because Grace in Contagious we share with others the joy of Christ in us. Because Grace creates a community of encouragement, we can be spurred on to walk out the path before us. Because Grace come from the Holy Spirit our endurance is not dependent our power or the strength of our community but the power of God!
PART III | Grace Creates a Response | Luke 1:46-55
Luke 1:46-55 |46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” 56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.
The Creator moving in the life of a person is a powerful creative inspiration. She rejoices!!! God is HER savior; she is blessed because she is saved by God. In the middle of an unexpected pregnancy and teen relationship drama with Joseph with her whole world upside down she is rejoicing specifically by singing about God. It is His plan from the beginning of time. Mary’s response to all God has said and done is a poetic song praising three characteristics of God.
God’s Grace is Mindful- He knows the lowly and He loves the lowly. God is intentional about how He engages with His people and each individual person. He is not random or impersonal, but remembers His promises. Before this moment, no one in history knew Mary’s name. She was like thousands of Jewish women before. Yet, God knew her name. And God knows your name. God sees you wherever you are! He is mindful meaning He remembers you. He knows where you need to go and what you need to get there! He will take you there! Because God’s grace is mindful of us, we are both known and not forgotten.
God’s Grace is Mighty- It is one thing to know a people or a person, but you need power to effect change. He is strong and able to do “great things” for His people and Glory. He’s might us used “for you” He reorients the whole world, exalting the humble, feeding the hungry, while rich and proud are brought low. His might is on display in overthrowing oppression establishing Justice. She will sing this son as Herod pursues her family. God’s might us used to root out pride in hard hearts and injustice in the world. His might will empty those who find their security in their wealth and His might will empty the tomb of Jesus as resurrection power becomes the great display of the God who is mightier than death! Because God’s grace is mighty, we can run to Him as a refuge from everything that brings us fear knowing we will find security in Him.
God’s Grace is Merciful - Mary is blessed with favor. But Mary, like us, was still a sinner in need of the mercy and grace of God. The just wages of sin is eventual death and wrath; Mercy, removing affliction, is available for His people who respect and fear Him. God’s mercy is was shown to His people at the Cross. God can show us great mercy because His great Justice was served on the Cross where Jesus took our just punishment in our place. The great joy of Christmas is seen clearly only when remembering the perfect sacrifice of Good Friday.
Because God’s grace is merciful we know His intentionality with us and power for us, directed by His goodness, to us. While there is sin in the world our God “sings” mercy. God’s answer for your sin is His Son Jesus on the cross in your place. In this we can know God is good and loves us immeasurably and He loves you personally!
We know all of this because of how God engages with us. God didn’t send us a doctrinal statement or a to do list, He sent us a person, He sent us Jesus! We know the intentional mindfulness, the mighty power, and the merciful grace of God all through the person and work of Jesus! He is where Grace is found, seen, experienced, and received. Where do you stand? How near is God? What is your purpose? Look to Jesus for the answer to all of these!
God’s people are a people who know they need His mercy and who fear and revere His greatness, responding with souls who magnify the lord when we simply “Trust Jesus”.