4 Advent Proper B4                        
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 1:26-38 Sermon                                          
December 18, 2011

Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal);
274 "Praise We The Lord This Day"
275 "My Soul Doth Magnify The Lord"
61 "Comfort, Comfort Ye My People"
59 "Hail To The Lord's Anointed"



TEXT (vs. 30-31):  "30And the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  

            "You're going to have a baby."  Those are definitely some life-changing words.  For any woman to have heard these words, she knows that there is a new life growing inside of her.  She is going to be a mother.  And in the same sense, the life of the baby's father is going to be changing as well.  Apart from adoption, this is the way that a couple becomes a family.

            When you consider the words, "you're going to have a baby," just think how those words can be received in a whole variety of different ways.  Young couples have come to expect to hear these words as part of the natural progression of things.  For the couple that has been trying to start a family for a long time, these words can be an answer to prayer.  For a couple in their late 40's who have grown children, they suddenly find themselves returning to a point in their lives they thought was past.  And in a variety of ways, it can turn their lives upside down.  And for the young girl who is in the midst of her high school years, those words can be absolutely devastating.

            Whatever the circumstances are, the topic of pregnancy and childbirth is a loaded one.  It can be serious, happy, joyful, emotional, and delicate.  And different people approach it in different ways.

            Television has always had to deal with pregnant actresses.  It didn't make much difference in radio, since nobody could actually see the person.  But suddenly with the innovation of television, writers and producers have had to become inventive as to what to do.

            The most famous instance was with actress Lucille Ball in her sitcom series, "I Love Lucy."  However, she wasn't the first pregnant actress on the small screen, contrary to what people have heard. 

            An earlier sitcom entitled "Mary Kay and Johnny" ran from 1947-1950.  It starred a real life couple, Mary Kay and Johnny Stearns.  When Mary Kay became pregnant in 1948, the shows producers tried to hide it, but they were unsuccessful at doing so.  So they wound up writing her pregnancy into the show.  As a result, their new son Christopher, scarcely a month old, wound up making his television debut.  But since only a few copies of the show have survived, and there wasn't a whole lot of discussion about the particulars, the topic was not a huge issue at the time.

            With Lucille Ball however, it was a big issue.  Just before they started filming the first I Love Lucy show in 1951, Lucy found out she was pregnant with her daughter, Lucy Arnaz.  Even though she was slightly showing, CBS thought it would be in bad taste to talk about pregnancy because some people might become offended.  An advertisement agency also said that they didn't want them to show a pregnant woman.  So it remained hidden.

            However in 1952 when Lucy became pregnant with Desi Arnaz Junior, they did incorporate Lucy's pregnancy into the story line.  However, the network censors would not allow the use of the word "pregnant," because they thought it might sound offensive.  So they substituted words like "expecting," and "having a baby," and "in a family way," and "going to be a mother" along with other descriptive phrases, just so they wouldn't have to utter the word "pregnant."  Of course that is totally ridiculous, especially when you consider the things they say on television today.  It was a different world back a couple generations ago.

            Today in our Gospel lesson, we are introduced to one of the most key women in the Bible.  We know her as the Virgin Mary.  In Greek, her name is Maria (also used in Spanish, German, and other languages); and in Hebrew, her Jewish name would be Miriam.  The name Marian and Marisol are also derived from the name "Mary."

            According to secular history, her parents were Joachim and Anne, an older couple who had Mary rather late in life.  Mary was raised in a devout Jewish household, and was a great woman of faith.  We know that the Lord had his eye on her; she would be the one spoken about in Old Testament prophecy who would be the earthly mother of Jesus.  Because of this, Mary is often referred to as the "Mother of God," or "Birth giver of God."  And there's nothing wrong with those terms of distinction, since Jesus Christ is indeed true God.  He is called "Immanuel," which means "God with us."

            It's at this point where we should look at the prophecy recorded by Isaiah, chapter 7, verse 14:  "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign.  Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."

            There are two things we need to keep in mind when looking at this verse.  The word "virgin" is the translation of the Hebrew word, "almah."  Strictly speaking, the direct translation of this word means: "A young virgin woman of marriageable age."  I'm always disappointed when various Bible translations say "a young woman," instead of "the virgin."  That takes the emphasis away from the miraculous nature of Jesus' incarnation.  There are young women all the time who bear children.  What's so special about that?  But a virgin, now that's something miraculous and spectacular.

            The second thing to keep in mind, is that there is a definite article in front of the word "almah."  So the translation should read "THE virgin," and not just any run-of-the-mill virgin.  This would be a specific virgin, chosen directly by God himself for this particular purpose.  There would be only one, and none other.  And this person would be the Virgin Mary.

            So we know that Mary fits the description according to Isaiah's prophecy.  The importance of Mary's virginity is brought out in Luke's Gospel very clearly, because he mentions it several times.  The Greek word used is "parthenos," which literally means "virgin."  And Mary was betrothed, or pledged in marriage to Joseph. 

            Now there has been some speculation about Mary's age when all of this happened.  According to Jewish custom, the period of betrothal normally began when the girl was 12 years old, and lasted for one year.  So according to this model, Mary would have been around the age of 13 when she gave birth.  But we don't know that to be a fact.  We just know that she was a young virgin woman of marriageable age, and that's where we leave it.

            During this time of betrothal, the couple would be preparing for their upcoming life together.  They would also remain chaste during this period.  And that's exactly what they did.

            So let's get back to Mary.  Here she is, minding her own business.  She's engaged to this great guy named Joseph.  He's a hard working and a God-fearing man.  She couldn't ask for anybody better.  And she's busy, making plans for her upcoming nuptials. 

            Then all of a sudden, the angel Gabriel comes and pays her a visit.  "Greetings," or "Hail O Favored one" are the words the angel uses.  Literally, Gabriel is telling her to "rejoice, the Lord is with you."  And then comes the real shocker:  "Mary, you're going to have a baby."

            Whoa!  You want to talk about a pregnancy having an impact?  This one tops them all.  There were no TV censors or advertising agencies to try to hide it or somehow soften the blow.  It was right there, right out front, and there was no mistake as to what Gabriel said.

            A young virgin, who is engaged to be married, is told that she is going to become pregnant out-of-wedlock.  Why would that be news that would make anybody rejoice?  Do you think that a girl of today in middle school would be rejoicing because she was pregnant?  It would be a disaster!

            But this is not the way Mary approaches this.  This is an angel talking to her with words of comfort and assurance.  Being the person of faith that she was, she would have known about Isaiah's prophecy and God's promise of a Saviour.  But it would have been the furthest thing from her mind that she would be the one chosen by God to be his earthly mother!

            Mary asks a legitimate question.  "How can this be?  I'm a virgin!  I have not been with any man."  In asking these questions, Mary doesn't doubt God at all.  She has complete and total faith in him and what he is doing.  She's just trying to make sense out of the whole thing.

            Gabriel then explains that God the Holy Spirit would make it happen.  The "y" chromosome in the process would be directly from God.  And then Gabriel also cites Mary's cousin Elizabeth's pregnancy, even in her advanced years.  Gabriel then concludes in verse 37, "For nothing will be impossible with God."  Mary then replies in verse 38, "Behold, I am the servantof the Lord; let it be to me according to your word."  And that ends Mary's dialogue with Gabriel.

            "You're going to have a baby."  That was the gist of Gabriel's announcement.  When normal people hear these words, they're usually spoken by a doctor, perhaps confirming the results of a home pregnancy test.  The woman is already pregnant.

            But in Mary's case, the event hasn't occurred yet.  Gabriel speaks in the future tense.  It WILL happen!  This is why theologians such as Martin Luther will say that at the very moment Mary hears the Word of God and obediently confesses, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your Word," is the very same moment that the Holy Spirit brings forth life in her.  She didn't argue.  She didn't doubt.  She didn't hinder or quench the work of the Holy Spirit.  She simply and humbly heard and obeyed.  And for her, it was a time of rejoicing!

            And you know something; the Holy Spirit still works in giving life.  Mary rejoiced because she was bearing the Saviour of the world.  The Holy Spirit works in our hearts to bring that Saviour to us, individually and personally.  We, who were dead in our sins and transgressions, have received new life through faith in Jesus Christ.  That's the whole reason Jesus came to this earth in the first place.  That's the reason the Holy Spirit came upon the Virgin Mary.  He did it for you and for me.  And he did it out of nothing but pure undeserved love.  You're going to have a baby, Mary; a baby who would pay the price for the sins of the entire world. 

            There's one thing that needs to be mentioned regarding our Gospel for today, one thing that is often overlooked but very important.  In the last part of verse 32, Gabriel says: "And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David."  Jesus' ancestry to the line of David is something we hear a lot about, but the fact Gabriel mentions it here is quite interesting. 

            The opening verses in Matthew's Gospel record Joseph's family lineage back to David.  Mary, just by the fact that she is to be married to Joseph, shares in this lineage by virtue of her marriage.  However, Mary herself was also from this same family line.  Mary and Joseph weren't close relatives, but they had a common ancestry.  So in two different ways, Jesus was of the house and lineage of David.  This just goes to show you how thorough God is when he fulfills prophecy.  Jesus Christ, conceived in Mary's womb by the Holy Spirit, is the promised Saviour.  There can be no doubt about it.  Jesus is indeed the real deal.

            Jesus is not only our Saviour, but he was Mary's Saviour as well.  In the verses just following our Gospel lesson for today, Mary says in verses 46-47:  "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour."   The Saviour of the world came to pay the price for Mary's sin as well. 

            Gabriel tells Mary, "You shall call his name Jesus."    But the angel gives further explanation to Joseph in Matthew chapter 1 verse 21:  "She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."  The name "Jesus" literally means "one who saves."  Both Mary and Joseph knew without a doubt that the announcement "You're going to have a baby," meant that they would be the earthly parents of God incarnate who would be the Saviour so long expected.

            Today, we can be especially thankful for Mary and her key role in the life of Jesus.  In being thankful, we don't worship her or give her the glory reserved only for God.  She would have none of that.  She regarded herself as the handmaid or servant of God.

            Instead, we look at her faithfulness, her humility, and her willingness to do whatever God wanted her to do.  In faith, she accepted Jesus as not only her son, but also most importantly her Saviour.  The same Holy Spirit that came upon Mary is who comes upon us today to create a new life within us, a life that is living and active in God's service, a life that clings only to Jesus through faith alone, and a life that lives in the hope of eternal salvation. 

            So yes Mary, you're going to have a baby.  And because of that, we rejoice at the news, because God has given us his Son as our Saviour.