Scripture: Luke 1:26-38
Hollywood seems to believe that they created alien encounters. Even before the motion picture was invented, there were authors that wrote what is generally called Science Fiction. While a great deal of it is far fetched and unbelievable, I would venture to say they were on to something – that we are not alone in our universe.
The four Gospels open differently. Matthew tells us a bit about Joseph and his struggle over whether to divorce Mary, but he has a dream, and an angel tells him no. Mark starts with John the Baptist, and John begins his Gospel with the Word of God becoming flesh.
There are few details to speak of in the three Gospels regarding Jesus’ birth, and it probably was not that big of a deal in the very early days of the Church. In their writings, Paul, Peter, James, and John share little about this event. Most of the very early church would have focused on the grown Man Jesus – His life, miracles, words, and resurrection. His birth would not have been of that much interest until later on.
Luke, the physician and historian, decides to explore, explain, and document the event around 30 or so years after the Resurrection. To discover the events surrounding the birth of Christ, Luke probably either spoke with Mary herself, or those closest to her, to find out what she alone knew.
In our text, we are introduced to Gabriel. Few angels are named in Scripture, and Gabriel is one of them. He spoke to Daniel, Zechariah and now Mary. Just consider that for a minute. Daniel lived 500-600 BC. Angels are timeless I guess. What do they do? What was Gabriel doing for the last 600 years? If indeed, “a thousand years is like a day to the Lord” then I guess it was just a few hours of heavenly time, but we don’t know that for sure.
Gabriel moved in and out of our time space reality. Stop for a second and think about some of those ramifications. There is another reality beyond our own. There is a place, a dimension that doesn’t function the same way ours does. Time is different and so is travel. Communication is different. What else is I wonder? We know the occupants of this reality have a different body than ours. Throughout Scripture we encounter beings from there that can walk in fire, materialize and dematerialize at will, and they can disguise themselves. This appearance of a being beyond our reality speaks of something outside of us and our knowledge base and understanding and that is exciting! A true alien encounter!
We tend to get so caught up in the here and now we forget that there is another reality. The ultimate one. The one that matters greatly. Yes, we live in this one, but that does not discount the truth of the other one. Gabriel popping in and out should remind us of that!
Throughout the Scripture we see glimpses here and there of this other place (almost 300 mentions) – consider Gideon, Elisha, Ezekiel, Daniel, Peter, John, Jesus, they all had out of this world experiences, and we sometimes glance over them too quickly. We should stop, be amazed and rejoice. Angels appearing, ministering, protecting, executing judgment, flying, hovering, wearing swords, and singing, proves that this other world is a busy place.
Entering into the beginnings of the Christmas story, Luke is going to give us a quick view of an amazing encounter. While we don’t know for sure, Mary is probably 13 or 14 years of age. In her culture, young girls were betrothed and considered married. They continued to live at home for about a year afterwards to prepare, but this was a legally binding contract. That is why Joseph was so upset. The penalty for breaking this contract was severe, including stoning at worst or lifelong shame at best.
Luke 1:26 -27 – In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.
These two verses present us with a time frame – the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Gabriel had already spoken to Zechariah and told him about the Messiah’s forerunner – John Baptist. Old Zack did not respond all that well, and Gabriel said, “I am Gabriel, I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.” In essence Gabriel said since you did not, would not believe me, you will be mute for nine months! Ouch.
Now, Gabriel was sent to a betrothed, (legally pledged to be married) virgin, a specific one named Mary. Mary was pledged to marry Joseph, of the house of David. This fact was extremely important for the Messiah would have to come from the house of David, and Joseph was from that one. Mary’s relative Elizabeth was married into the line of priests, and though we do not know exactly Mary’s lineage, it is likely she was also from the kingly line.
Luke 1: 28 – And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
Gabriel’s greeting included this phrase – O favored (favored with grace) one – why? I have no doubts that Mary was a wonderful young lady, she however was not deity as my early childhood religion attempts to make her. She is highly favored because of Who it is that chose her, and what His plans are for her, not because of who she is. If the King of Scotland or England chose you or I to do something special for him, we would be considered highly favored, but not necessarily because of whom we are, but because of whom he is.
Luke 1:29-30 – But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
These verses seem to speak about the look on her face, and Gabriel says don’t be afraid, so we know the look had some fright in it. Just about every time an angel shows up in Scripture, people pass out, shake, quake, fall down, etc. I would imagine the glory of heaven would do that to ya. “You have found favor” – you are chosen for the greatest task ever imaginable.
History has shown that being favored by God does not always mean ease, prosperity, health and comfort. Favored can include suffering, hardships, loss, persecution and death. Simeon in Luke 2:35 promised Mary some of that favor – “a sword will pierce your own soul.” God’s will is what matters, not our comfort or pleasure. Sometimes God favors us in ways we do not initially understand or like. However, time has shown that God is always correct in how He dispenses His favor.
Luke 1:31 -And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus.
Now, if you are 13 or 14 years old, betrothed to Joseph and understand your culture even a little bit, this would be shocking news. Mary might have been thinking, “Wow, an angel, I am favored, this is wonderful news.” As Gabriel’s voice fades in and out of Mary’s consciousness, she says, “Wait, stop the music, what did he just say, a baby? How in the world will I have a baby? What will Joseph say? What will my parents and friends think?”
While Mary is absorbing what was said, Gabriel explains more of God’s desire and plans –
Luke 1:32-33 – 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 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
Just as our small children learn the ABS’s and counting to ten, King David, his throne, and Who was going to sit on it next was ingrained from birth. Their entire religion looked for the Messiah to bring deliverance from their enemies. This longing was celebrated and anxiously awaited in the Passover, the retelling of the Exodus, and captured in the often used phrase, “Next year in Jerusalem.”
Just try to imagine what Gabriel has just told this young girl – your son, the one not coming from your husband, but somehow, someway will be: The Son of God, sit on David’s throne, reign over the house of Jacob (Israel) and His kingdom will be eternal. In short, The Messiah.
When Mary could talk again, and I believe that might have been a bit, she says,
Luke 1:34 – And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
which is a better way to approach Gabriel than Zechariah did. Zechariah said in essence, “No way, not possible.” Mary says, “How will it happen,” which is a totally different response. One is of faith and one is of unbelief. Gabriel responded to Mary much differently than he did to Zachariah.
Luke 1:35 – 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.
The greatest gift given to mankind is explained. In theology we call this the “hypostatic union” – God uniting Himself to His creation. Mary’s Son would be totally human and totally God. This One would be worth all of creation because He is the Creator. This one Man could stand in the place of every man because He created man. God will redeem His creation, those made in His image by doing the unthinkable – He will become one of them. God will set right what the first Adam messed up. This Second Adam will walk perfectly without sin, complete His Father’s purposes, and provide salvation to the lost. The relationship lost in the Garden will be restored through the sacrifice of the Son of God.
Gabriel probably sees the look in Mary’s eyes and says, “Nothing is impossible for God.” To prove this statement to Mary, Gabriel states that even Elizabeth, your relative, who is way beyond childbearing age, is going to have a son.
Luke 1:36-37 – 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. For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Luke records Mary’s classic response.
Luke 1:38 – 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.
Would that you and I would respond this way to God’s revealed will when we discover it. I am sure that what Gabriel told Mary was not something she had even considered before his appearance. Now, everything in Mary’s world would be turned upside down. All of her plans, dreams, and her vision for the future had just been disrupted by this visitor from another realm, yet Mary responds in faith.
When I become overwhelmed by this life, I can draw courage from Luke’s narrative. There is another realm far beyond my own, and it is real. This heavenly realm is the perfect, eternal one. This reality is the one where the true King of Kings reigns. The life I lead in my earthly time is preparing me to enter the other place after I leave here. Every once and a while, God rends the veil between us and lets us receive a glimpse of what is true, holy and eternal.
Angles are real and God’s Word states that they are ministering spirits sent to aid us. (Hebrews 1:14). Many people in the Scripture encountered these beings and this means we are not alone in our universe. There are aliens outside of our human experience. No, I don’t believe the science fiction writers or Hollywood ideas are true, but I do believe the Bible. There is another reality populated with angels, creatures, and living beings, and on occasion, they visit us here on earth.
I also believe that like Mary, we are all favored because God is our Father. Each one of us is chosen to complete works that He has prepared for us. No, there will never be another Jesus born, because He completed the task, but each of us still has a purpose, destiny and calling to fulfill, therefore we are also highly favored.
God’s plan was and is focused on redemption. Jesus came to seek and save those who were lost. The Gospel message begins in the Christmas telling and finds victory on Calvary. We celebrate this season because of the outcome of the life lived by the One born. The sacrifice presented on the cross was accepted and was proved by the Resurrection. The announcement by Gabriel to Mary was fulfilled just as he said it would be. Jesus Christ is King. Jesus sits on David’s throne, Jesus rules over all and His Kingdom is eternal. Therefore we have hope, eternal hope.
I pray we would not forget Gabriel’s visit, his words to Mary and most importantly, Jesus’ gift to us during this busy season. Jesus is indeed the reason for the season. May we enjoy this time instead of simply enduring it.