The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear. And there are great songs to sing – O Holy Night; Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. And there are really good songs to sing – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (especially when sung by Mel Tormé). And there are really awful songs to never sing – Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.
Why Luke Wrote Luke’s Gospel
This morning we will be in Luke 1:26-38. We are in Luke 1:26-38 today because it is the most wonderful time of the year; the celebration of the birth of the Savior. We are also in Luke 1:26-38 today because we will be spending the whole month of December in Luke’s Gospel. But we are also in Luke 1:26-38 today because this is where we began six years ago on this very day.
And as we begin today I want to first look at why Luke wrote Luke’s Gospel. R. Kent Hughes, he is one my favorites, shared an old word from a Puritan preacher named William Ames. “Next to the Scriptures, nothing makes a sermon more to pierce than when it comes out of the inward affection of the heart without any affectation [speech designed to impress].”
Luke begins Luke’s Gospel (Luke 1:1-4) readily admitting that many before him had undertaken to do what he is doing – a put together narrative of all that had been accomplished. And all that had been accomplished is all about Jesus the Christ. And in addition to the many there were also those who were eyewitness of all that had been accomplished, ministers of the word who then delivered…I love this word delivered. It literally means to give from close beside; or to deliver over with a sense of close personal involvement. But it is with the intent that what is being delivered is to be kept, cared for, guarded as a treasure and used. And Luke says that this, the gospel, has been delivered to us! So then, why did Luke write Luke’s Gospel?
He researched and researched and researched some more, these accomplished things. And he spent a considerable amount of time researching these things. All because it seemed good to him; good to him to put together an orderly account for his friend Theophilus. Luke wrote Luke’s Gospel for his friend…out of the affection of his heart. Luke wanted his friend to have certainty of all the things he had been taught regarding Jesus. What is this certainty? As an historian, Luke helps us and Theophilus to have certainty about the gospel. As a theologian, Luke will touch us and Theophilus with God’s love and grace. As a physician, Luke will help us and Theophilus to love people. And as a musician, Luke will set our hearts and the heart of Theophilus to sing.
The Greatest News Ever Is Proclaimed
And it begins in the first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel. In these first two chapters, there are two songs before Christmas day, one song on Christmas day and one song after Christmas day (which I think indicates that because of Christmas we are to keep on singing). But why is there so much singing as Luke begins Luke’s Gospel? And what is Christmas? I look forward every December to hearing Charlie Brown urgently ask, “Does anyone know what Christmas is all about?!” Why is there so much singing in these first two chapters? It is because of Luke 1:26-38. All the singing happens after these verses. All the singing happens after the greatest news ever is proclaimed.
And it happened in the sixth month (1:26). This will be important later in the passage, but it has much to do with the events of the previous verses. It was in the sixth month that the angel Gabriel was sent from God. Angels have names! And this particular angel, Gabriel, is only mentioned in two books of the Bible. He is mentioned in the book of Daniel. In Daniel, he is sent in response to Daniel’s prayer (cf. Daniel 9:20). And he is mentioned in the book of Luke. In Luke, he is sent in response to Zechariah’s prayer (cf. Luke 1:13). Zechariah was an old man, too old. And his wife Elizabeth was an old woman, too old. There is a reminder here of Isaac and Rebekah. Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife because she was barren (Genesis 25:21). And he prayed a long time for her, twenty years to be exact (Genesis 25:21; 26). Zechariah prayed to the Lord for his wife because she was barren, too. And he prayed a long time for her, too. And so it is interesting the affect that prayer, fervent prayer, had on the greatest news ever proclaimed.
And so Gabriel is 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 (1:26-27). What is the point of these two verses? It is the unexpected. Luke wants us to listen. The greatest news ever proclaimed happened in the unexpected. It happened in Nazareth, a nonplace, a nothing town in the middle of nowhere. It is not even mentioned in the Old Testament. But it had a reputation. “Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see’” (John 1:46). And it happened in a nonplace to a woman. We hear her name – Mary. It is in Luke’s Gospel that we hear the names of women more than any other Gospel. But Mary was not just any woman. She was like most women in her town. Like most women, she was poor. Like most women, she was familiar with the Old Testament because of what she learned at the local synagogue and at home. Like most women, she would one day marry. Like most women, she would be a mom. Like most women, she would never travel far from home. Like most women, she would live the rest of her life in this nothing town in the middle of nowhere. The greatest news ever proclaimed happened here to a woman, a young woman who was most likely not any older than fourteen years old.
And twice in those two verses, Luke wants us to listen. Mary was a virgin.
The Lord is With You
And then Gabriel speaks. “Greetings!” Literally, rejoice! This word is found in Luke’s Gospel more than in any other book in the New Testament. It is almost as if Gabriel cannot contain his joy. He knew this moment would come six months ago, but not knowing when or where or to whom. Keep listening. “Greetings, O favored one.” Circle that word favored. In verse thirty Gabriel will say once more, “Mary, you have found favor with God.” This favor was found. It was not something Mary had earned. But it does say something about this young teenage woman. It says something about how tender her heart was to God. Listen to Isaiah 66:2. “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” This was a young teenage woman who was humble. This was a young teenage woman who was sensitive and serious about sin, her own sin. This was a young teenage girl who listened. She listened to the Bible as the very word of God. God’s word was not a light thing to her.
And note this; finding favor with God is the same thing that was said of Noah. Noah stood out in his wicked generation (Genesis 6:8). Please note that; it was during a time of great difficulty that Noah found favor with God. And listen some more. “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you.” Mark that phrase, that reality – the Lord is with you. This phrase always indicates help, the Lord is your help (Genesis 28:16; Joshua 1:9; Judges 6:12; John 14:16).
And the reason that Gabriel says this about favor and the Lord’s presence with her, is that she is troubled. She is troubled not at the presence of this mighty angel or that this mighty angel is speaking to her. She is trouble at this greeting. This angel is commanding her to rejoice! She is trying to figure out why!
Listen to verse thirty one. “And behold.” This is a command and it will come up a second time. Gabriel is telling Mary to look! Look and listen to this news I am about to give you. You will conceive in your womb, Mary. You will bear a son, Mary. And you will give him a name, Mary. Do you know what this sounds like? It sounds like Isaiah 7:14. I wonder how it sounded to Mary. You shall call him Jesus, Mary. The name Jesus means salvation. It is the equivalent of the Old Testament name Joshua – The Lord (Yahweh) saves or the Lord is salvation. In Matthew this name is defined further as “he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Now see how great this is; listen to what Gabriel says next. Mary, look and listen. He will be great.
I read a pastor call this one of the greatest angelic understatements ever. Words fail to fill how great Jesus is. And I think it is because the Bible acts a window to display the view of how great he really is. He saves! He saves people from their sins! This month we are reading the last book of the Bible called the Revelation (that is seeing) of Jesus Christ. And the point of Revelation is to see how great Jesus is. See this in Revelation 7:10-11. There is this great multitude that no one could number from every tribe and nation and language with palm branches in their hands crying out with a loud voice to Jesus. “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” The angels of heaven hear this and say “AMEN!” And then someone asks who all these people are with the palm branches. In short, these are people who have gone through the greatest difficulty and the greatest trouble. And now listen to Revelation 7:15-17. “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” These are people who with absolute certainty know the greatness of Jesus.
Mary, Did You Know?
Now listen to young teenage Mary. She asks in verse thirty-four, “How will this be?” Not, how can this be? It is like she is asking, “God, how will you do this?” What kind of teenager is this? She is asking because she is a virgin in the truest and purest sense. Grammatically, it is written with the sense that what was true is still true. She has never been with a man sexually. She is engaged to be married and is not planning on being with him until she can truly and officially call him her husband on her wedding night. And this greatest news ever proclaimed is not changing her plan or conviction. But she believes this news. It will happen and she seems to think that it will be sooner rather than later. Meaning, too, she is not already pregnant.
And Gabriel explains that this will be all of God. The Holy Spirit will come upon her and overshadow her just as God did with the Tabernacle in the Old Testament (Exodus 40:35). The very presence of God will be in her womb. This child is the God-Man. Jesus is 100% God and he is 100% man. He is God the Son. None is stronger than him. He is a king and no king has been or will be a king longer than him. He is the king forever. And he is holy, none is purer than him. And he is Jesus, none has been more needed than him. And he is great, none is more worthy of our admiration than him. This is Christmas.
Listen to verse thirty-six. Gabriel again tells Mary to behold, to look. Look at your relative Elizabeth, old Elizabeth, Mary. She is pregnant and in her sixth month. And he says this so that Mary will anchor the rest of her life in this inescapable fact: for nothing will be impossible with God. Or more literally, look and listen to the unlimited ability of God. No word that he has spoken will be impossible. He will surely do it.
Now watch this, it is too awesome. This young teenage woman from a nothing town in the middle of nowhere says to Gabriel, “Now you look.” Gabriel, you behold. Listen to what she says. “I am the servant of the Lord” (1:38). The word servant is a very strong word. The better word here is slave. A servant gives service to someone. A slave gives themselves to someone. She is saying, “Here I am!” (cf. Isaiah 6:8). She is giving her whole life to God. Here is my life! May it be, all of it, according to every word that I have just heard! And this young teenage woman considered herself blessed.
And so I have been praying that my young teenage girls will be this kind of young teenage girl. I have been praying that the little girl in the nursery this morning will be this kind of young teenage girl. HERE I AM! And I have been praying that I will be like Mary. Here I am! And considered blessed. And I have been praying that we would be like Mary together. Here we are!
 R. Kent Hughes, Luke: That You May Know the Truth