Based on Luke chapter 1 verses 26 – 80
Jesus Birth Foretold
What was she to think? This news was incredible! Amazing! Frightening! But how could it happen? She wasn’t even married and had never ‘been’ with any man? How could she have a baby? Gathering herself together, Mary spluttered out her question to the enormous and frightening angel who had just spoken to her. ‘But how can I have a baby? I’m not even married – I’m a virgin!’ (PAUSE)
In just a few moments – Mary’s life had been turned on its head. Just minuets before she’d been thinking about her engagement to Joseph and all they had to look forward too together. Joseph was a fine man, a carpenter who seemed to be doing very well, and although she was still young, Mary felt sure that all would be well. But now this – this angel – who suddenly appeared from nowhere, had changed everything!
As Mary had been going about her normal jobs for the day, suddenly the angel Gabriel appeared. When Mary saw him, she didn’t know what to do or think! Terrified by his appearance, she watched opened mouth as he began to speak! ‘Greetings most favoured of women, the Lord is with you!’
What on earth did that mean? Why was he speaking to her? A no one from the backwater village of Nazareth in Galilee! Why was she favoured? Mary simply couldn’t understand! And then Gabriel spoke again. ‘”Don’t be frightened, Mary,” he said, “God’s decided to bless you! You’re going to become pregnant and have a son, and you’re to call him Jesus. He will be very great and called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over Israel forever – for his Kingdom will never end!”
And so Mary had asked her question, ‘But how can I have a baby? I’m not even married – I’m a virgin!’ And that’s also when Mary discovered just how special this baby was to be. As Gabriel explained, she realised that this child would not be like a normal baby who’s a completely new person, a mixture of their mum and dad. Nor was He to be some kind of terrible mixture of Mary and God (what a horrible thought that is)! (P) No, (P) this baby was to be no less than God Himself. But coming to be with us as a human being, just like you and me. The power of God the Father was going to overshadow her, God the Holy Spirit was going to rest upon her and the child that would be formed inside her was to be God the Son – the Son who had existed from eternity and who would continue to exist for ever and ever!
And not only that, this child would be the long awaited Messiah, the Saviour! No wonder the angel Gabriel had said she was the most favoured of women. Every Israelite woman who had every lived had hoped to be the mother of the Messiah, and now, completely unexpectedly, she was told that she was to be the one – the mother of the Messiah!
And, as if he couldn’t hold himself back, Gabriel continued with more wonderful news, this time about Elizabeth, Mary’s relative! ‘What’s more,’ He continued, ‘Elizabeth is now pregnant – in her old age! People used to say she was barren, that she couldn’t have children, but now she’s already six months pregnant! For with God, nothing is impossible.” (PAUSE)
This was the second time Gabriel had come to tell people about special babies, the first time was when he spoke to Zechariah about the birth of his son John. Zechariah hadn’t believed Gabriel, and, as punishment for not believing what the angel was telling him, he was made unable to hear or speak a word until all that the angel had promised came about. (P) So how would Mary respond? Would she believe him or not? (PAUSE)
Still shaken by all she’d seen, and almost overwhelmed by what the angel had said, Mary opened her mouth to speak. (P) ‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ she started, ‘and I ‘m willing to accept whatever He wants. May everything you’ve said – come true.’ – At that, the angel left.
Elizabeth lived some distance away in the hill country to the south, so Mary made her plans, and as soon as she could she arranged to go and see Elizabeth. A few days later Mary found herself at the door of Elizabeth’s house, and entering the house she called Elizabeth’s name. As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s call, the baby inside Elizabeth’s womb leapt for joy and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And in a loud voice she called out to Mary, ‘You are blessed by God above all other women, and your child is blessed. What an honour, that the mother of my Lord should visit me! When you came in and called my name, the baby inside of me jumped for joy! You are blessed, and especially so because you believed that the Lord would do everything He said.” (P) Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about 3 months and then left just before Elizabeth’s baby was born. (PAUSE)
When everybody heard that the Lord had given Elizabeth a baby son in her old age, they rejoiced at how good the Lord was. (P) Now, the Jewish custom with baby boys is that when they’re 8 days old they have a special ceremony where the boy’s circumcised and given his name. Although people were rejoicing with Elizabeth over the birth of her son, many still felt sorry for her because of Zechariah’s problem – not being able to speak and hear. However, the ceremony went ahead as usual, except, that when the time came for the baby to be given his new name Elizabeth stopped them! The men present wanted to call the boy Zechariah after his father, but Elizabeth wouldn’t let them, saying, ‘No! Don’t call him that! His name’s John!’ This didn’t please the men who felt it wasn’t proper for a woman to be deciding the name of her son. So they went over to Zechariah and made signs to him to ask him what the name of his son should be. Zechariah made signs back indicating that he wanted a writing table, and then, to everyone’s surprise he wrote, ‘His name is John.’ Instantly Zechariah could hear and speak again and began worshiping and praising God.
News of all that had happened in Zechariah’s household spread like wildfire around the whole region, and everyone who heard about it spent time thinking. ‘I wonder what this lad will become? He’s bound to become something important because the hand of the Lord’s on him in a special way.’
And so John grew up, becoming strong in spirit. And he lived out in the wilderness until the time came for him to start his public ministry.