A God Who Gives

Luke 1:26-38

December 15, 2002 | Brian Bill

As we prepare for Christmas, sometimes I wonder if we have allowed the Savior to be stolen from our celebrations.  We’ve sterilized the spiritual and been inoculated by the familiarity of the nativity.  “Merry Christmas” has been replaced with “Happy Holidays.”  Have you noticed that, “Are you ready for Christmas?” is often code for, “Do you have all your shopping done?”  It’s so easy to walk right past the manger with our arms full of gifts, isn’t it?

Did you hear about the middle school in New Jersey that canceled a field trip to a performance of “A Christmas Carol” because some might be offended by the play’s Christian themes?  As columnist Cal Thomas points out, this is not really even a Christian story, though it does contain elements of charity, kindness and good will.  Amazingly, instead of allowing the students to see this classic Dickens’ presentation, they went to the “Great Railroad Race,” a play that promotes diversity.  Thomas writes, “Does it teach tolerance if we melt down Christmas…into a single meaningless ‘holiday’? “

Related to this, an editorial appeared in Tuesday’s Chicago Tribune which sums up how our culture’s obsession with political correctness has gutted the greatness of Christmas: “Now that December is here, I’m reminded [that] the most taboo word in our country is…‘Christmas.’  It’s amusing watching people on the TV news shows talking about Christmas but going through verbal gymnastics to avoid saying the word…even the Santa’s with kettles greet you with ‘Happy Holidays.’  When they say, ‘Merry Christmas,’ I’ll give a donation.” 

I want to suggest this morning that if we want to have a Merry Christmas, we must first understand Mary’s Christmas.  If you have your Bible, please turn to Luke 1, beginning in verse 26.  We’re going to walk through a few verses on our way to the manger and then we’re going to unwrap some of the words of Christmas by focusing on God’s gifts to Mary.

During this three-part series that will conclude on Christmas Eve, I want us to rediscover the reverence of the Incarnation because the whole superstructure of Christianity rests on the reality of Christmas.  The word “incarnation” literally means the act of assuming flesh, whereby the Son of God voluntarily assumed a human body and nature.  Don Skinner put it this way: “God did not send Christ to us; God came to us in Christ.”  Jesus is fully God and fully man, as we will see in our passage today.  A theologian described the incarnation with these words: “…God must be able to come over to our side without leaving his own ‘side.’”  

Let’s see how God came over to our side.  Let me say at the beginning that the Christmas narrative is in danger of being relegated to a sweet story that is just read once a year.  Some of us have heard it so much that we’re no longer moved by the magnitude of the Majesty becoming a man.  We must never forget that this is holy history that should be approached with awe and astonishment.  The astronaut James Erwin, who traveled to the moon, experienced things that you and I never will.  And yet, he never got over the crux of Christmas when he said, “There’s something more important than man walking on the moon, and that is God, walking on the earth.”

The Birth Announcement

As we pick up the story in verses 26-30, we’re let in on an angelic encounter between Mary and the angel Gabriel as she receives a birth announcement that will rock her life and change the trajectory of human history.  

  • “In the sixth month…” refers to Elizabeth being six months pregnant with John the Baptist.  
  • “…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.  The region of Galilee was not a politically correct choice.  Judea was in the heart of Israel, while Galilee was up in the hills, and a bit backward.  Nazareth was a 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 town of Nazareth was small and the womb that was to carry the greatest of all treasures was not that of a 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?” The Greek word means that she had never had sexual relations with anyone.  

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.”   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.”  We’ll talk more about the implications of “Immanuel” next week.   

  • “…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.  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 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 Savior’s family tree: “…Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”

God’s Gifts to Mary

Some say the tradition of gift giving started in Europe and eventually came to our country with the immigrants.  Others propose that it goes back to the Magi, who gave gifts to Jesus after He was born.  I’d like to suggest that it goes back a bit further.  The first instance of gift giving took place between Mary and God.  It’s really the first gift exchange.  One came ready to give and was loaded down with presents.  The other was caught off guard and had to make do with what she had.  As we come to verses 31-35, God gives 7 gifts to Mary.  Let’s see if we can unwrap each of them.

1. She will become pregnant. 

The first present God will give to Mary is a miracle.  Though she is a virgin, she will “be with child.” This has to blow her mind.  I wonder if she stopped breathing at this point.  This was a promise that had never been seen before.  She was going to become pregnant outside the normal process of conception.  

2. She will give birth to a son. 

While the conception was miraculous, Mary was going to have a normal pregnancy and give birth to a baby boy.  He was fully human and so would experience what every baby goes through, contrary to the Christmas Carol, which states, “no crying He makes.”  Hebrews 2:17-18: “For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” 

3. His name will be Jesus. 

The birth announcement is being dictated to Mary even before she is pregnant!  The Hebrew here is “Joshua,” which means “Jehovah-Salvation.”  This was a very popular name, because many parents wanted their boy to be named after the leader of Israel’s conquest over Canaan.  Some parents even picked this name in hopeful expectation that their son would be the Messiah, or Deliverer.  From the very beginning, her son was set apart as the Savior, with his name chosen by God Himself.  Sometimes, couples struggle to pick the name for their baby.  It might be the mother’s choice in some situations.  In this case it was the Father who selected the name.

In Matthew’s Gospel, when Gabriel appeared to Joseph to clear up some of his confusion, the meaning of Jesus’ name and His mission is clarified: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).  The reason for Christmas is irrevocably linked to the redemption of our sins.  Bethlehem’s baby only makes sense in light of Calvary’s crucified Savior.  The Apostle Paul captured the essence of the Incarnation when he wrote in 1 Timothy 1:15: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-of whom I am the worst.”

When you need forgiveness, call on Jesus

There’s just something about that name, isn’t there?  When things are tough, whisper His name.  When you need forgiveness, call on Jesus.  If you want salvation, only Jesus can give it to you.  Acts 4:12: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” 

4. He will be great. 

The word great means “exceedingly mighty,” “extraordinary,” and “splendid,” and echoes back to Psalm 47:2: “How awesome is the LORD Most High, the great King over all the earth!” The infant to be born is the awesome Lord.  The one who will be held by His mother is the same one who holds everything together by the word of His power.  The star that eventually led the wise men to Jesus was hurled into the heavens by His holy hands.  Hebrews 1:2-3 tells us that Jesus as been, “…Appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.  The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”

Let me ask you a question.  Is there anything great in the world that really gets you excited?   What is it that you will go out of your way to see or hear?  Remember this.  Jesus is superlatively greater than anything we think is great.  John Piper puts it this way: “If you took all the greatest thinkers of every country and every century and put them in a room with Jesus, they would shut their mouths and listen to the greatness of His wisdom.  All the generals would listen to His strategy.  All the greatest musicians would listen to his music theory and His performance on every instrument.  There is nothing that Jesus cannot do a thousand times better than the person you admire most in any area of human endeavor under the sun.” 

Jesus would be great in His love, great in His compassion, and great in His sacrifice.  He would live a great life, teach great parables and give great sermons.  He would heal with great power and be a great example.  He would die a great death and would be resurrected in great power.  He would give the great commission and ascend to a great height.  He will come again in great glory.  And He longs to make great changes in your life and in mine, if we will but let Him.

5. He will be the Son of the Most High God. 

Verse 32 refers to Jesus as the “Son of the Most High.”  Verse 35 calls Him the “Son of God.” Here’s the mystery of the Incarnation.  Jesus is the son of Mary and the Son of the Most High God.  He is God’s beloved as stated in Matthew 3:17: “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.”  

He is sovereign in every dimension possible

The title “Most High” in the Old Testament is el elyon in the Hebrew and is a statement of God’s surpassing supremacy.  There is no one higher than He is.  He is sovereign in every dimension possible.  To say that Jesus is the Son of the Highest is to say that He bears the character and nature of the highest.

6. His kingdom will never end. 

Mary is probably still trying to gulp down the fact that she is going to be pregnant, have a great boy named Jesus, who will Himself be the Son of the Most High God.  Gabriel’s not done yet because now he tells her that Jesus will fulfill the prophecy given to David that someone will sit on his throne forever.  Verse 33: “And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end.”  This prophecy was given by the prophet Nathan in 2 Samuel 7:12-13: “When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”  

Jesus has no term limits and has an unlimited monarchy with an absolute reign.  This promise means that Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  This rule of grace and truth is established in the hearts and lives of those who have the God of Jacob as their refuge.  He is King and is enthroned as Lord and Leader in many lives today.  Are you in His kingdom?  If so, are you bowing before His supremacy and obeying His rightful rule?

When we come to verse 34, I get the sense that Mary can’t process any more data and so she verbalizes a question that has now hit a crescendo: “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”  She’s not really mocking the impossible, but instead is asking a very practical question.  If you think about it, her response is really pretty amazing.  She could have just run away, told Gabriel that he had the wrong address, or that he was just mistaken.  

She could have responded with a lack of faith like Zechariah did when he was told by Gabriel that he was going to be a father in Luke 1:18: “How can I be sure of this?  I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Zechariah was really saying, “I can’t believe it.”  According to verse 45, Mary believed but we find her now to be befuddled and bewildered.  Her question had to do with “how,” not “whether” it was possible.  Zechariah wanted proof; Mary wanted to know the process.  If God was going to squeeze His awesome greatness into human flesh, it’s no wonder that she was filled with some questions.

7. He will be the Holy One. 

Gabriel’s answer makes it clear that the Holy Spirit will bring about this wonder in Mary’s womb.  Look at verse 35: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…”  This answers the biological question.  The word “overshadow” carries the sense of the holy, powerful presence of God and was used of the Shekinah glory.  This was a cloud of light by which God manifested His presence from a position above the Ark of the Covenant.  Exodus 40:34: “Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.”  This word is used in reference to the Transfiguration to describe the overshadowing of the cloud.   Interestingly, the voice that comes out of the cloud identifies Jesus as God’s Son: “This is my Son, whom I love.  Listen to him!” (Mark 9:7).  

Verse 35 continues, “…So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”  As a result of His supernatural conception, Jesus will be called, “holy,” perfect, free from all taint of sin.  This verse declares three things about the Savior, all of which are absolutely necessary for salvation to happen.

  • He was Man – “to be born”
  • He was Sinless – “the holy one”
  • He was God – “the Son of God”

Jesus had to be born of a woman so that He would be the same nature as those whom He came to save.  He had to be free from sin in order to make sacrifice for our sins.  And, He had to be God in order for the sacrifice to be accepted.  His deity asserts that God Himself has come to save us.  This is the conundrum of Christmas, the intrigue of the Incarnation – the sinless man who is God has come to reveal who He is and reconcile lost sinners to Himself.

After pointing Mary to the miracle that took place in the life of Elizabeth in verse 37, we hear a verse that each one of us should memorize: “For nothing is impossible with God.”  Some of you are in an impossible situation right now.  Mary’s Christmas demonstrates what God can do…

  • You may be in an impossible job situation
  • You may be faced with a pile of debt
  • You may be worried about a child or a parent
  • You may be longing for courage to face some trial
  • You may be overwhelmed by life

Whatever it is, nothing is impossible with God.  

Are you afraid?  Nothing is impossible with God.

Do you feel lost and lonely?  Nothing is impossible with God.

Is your marriage melting down?  Nothing is impossible with God.

Are you too tired to go on?  Nothing is impossible with God.

Do you wonder if you can ever get over your anger?  Nothing is impossible with God.

Ever wish you could just be happy?  Nothing is impossible with God.

Do you feel unloved?  Nothing is impossible with God.

If God can reach all the way down from the throne of Heaven to the body of a teenage virgin, if He can enter time from eternity, if the infinite can become an infant…what can He not do for you?  What will He do in your life?  Can you imagine what He wants to do with you?  

Mary’s Gifts to God

For that first Christmas, God gave Mary seven gifts – a pregnancy, the promise of a son, a Savior named Jesus, He will be great, He will be the Son of the Most High God, His kingdom will never end, and He will be the Holy One.  Mary didn’t really have much she could give to God, but what she did have, she gave.  The only thing she had was her life.  Look at verse 38: “I am the Lord’s servant…May it be to me as you said.”  Her gift giving involved two things:

  • Voluntary servanthood.  A servant knows no rights of ownership.  Mary is saying that she is the property of God.
  • Submissive obedience.  This is radical commitment.  Whatever God wants her to do, she is willing to do.  

Someone has said that there are only two types of Christmas presents—those you don’t want and those you don’t get.  Actually there are two other gifts this Christmas—the gift of Jesus packaged for you that you must receive and the gift of yourself that God is waiting for you to give.  One gift has your name on it but it must be accepted in order to make it your own.  The other is a bit harder to give because it involves surrender.  It’s really a gift exchange.  He gave to you and now He waits for you to give yourself to Him.  Jesus exchanged His life for yours but this transaction is only activated if you accept what He has done.

Friend, Christmas isn’t so much what you get, but what you give.  Have you ever given yourself to Him?  That’s the only present you can offer, and it’s the only one He wants.  Are you ready to give yourself into God’s hands to serve and obey Him the rest of your life?  Share the gift of yourself with the One who created you, who was born for you, and who died for you.  Can you say, “Do with me as you please because I am your slave. Use your omnipotent power to put me where you want me, when you want me there, doing what you want me to do?”  He is the everlasting King.  Are you in His kingdom?  If you are, then live under His loving leadership.

What makes Christmas is God’s desire to enter into the lives of ordinary people who are willing to let Him in.  Mary’s Christmas means Merry Christmas to you and me because she believed the impossible and committed herself to voluntary servanthood and submissive obedience.  Will you make it your Christmas?  It’s for you!  Will you receive what He’s done and then give yourself to Him?  


In this age of political correctness I read a story about a kindergarten pageant that took place recently.  A mother positioned herself so she could watch her son in the holiday play.  She didn’t expect much depth from the production because everything biblical about Christmas had been replaced with reindeer, snowflakes, and good cheer.  But then her son’s class rose to sing a song called, “Christmas Love.”  The kids were adorned with fuzzy mittens, red sweaters and bright snowcaps.  

Those in the front held up large letters one by one, to spell out the title of the song.  As the class sang, “C is for Christmas,” a child would hold up the letter “C.” Then, “H is for Happy” and so on, until the completed message read, “Christmas Love.”  Everything was going smoothly, until suddenly they noticed her…a small quiet, girl in the front row holding the letter “M” upside down.  She was totally aware that her letter “M” appeared as “W.”  

The kids started snickering and making fun of the girl.  She had no idea they were laughing at her and so she stood tall, proudly holding her “W.”  The teachers tried to keep the kids quiet but the laughter actually increased in volume, until the last letter was raised.  Everyone saw it at the same time.  A hush came over the audience and eyes began to widen as parents and kids alike understood the reason they were there.  The message rang out loud and clear that night: CHRISTWAS LOVE.  

In our upside down world, don’t let anyone steal Christ from your Christmas.  He loves you more than you can imagine, whether you have a broken shoe or a broken heart. Will you allow yourself to have a birthday party this Christmas by giving yourself to Him and experiencing the new birth?  Jesus still enters ordinary lives today.  Will you let Him in yours?  

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?