26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall call his name Jesus.
32 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,
33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
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.
36 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. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”
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.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus.”
These twelve verses are packed with salvation, they are filled with deliverance, they are stuffed with wonder and power and mystery and Gospel.
In these verses, we hear the basis for what we confess in the Nicene Creed: Jesus Christ, the Son of God “for us and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary.”
In these verses, we hear the details of that mysterious beginning of John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God…. And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us” (Jn. 1:1, 14).
This text tells us about the first new thing since the beginning of creation – a virgin becomes pregnant with a Son. This had never happened before, and it will never happen again. In a completely new and unique way God did what He had been doing since the beginning. He comes to dwell – to tabernacle – with His people.
When God led His people out of slavery in Egypt, God was present with them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. As Israel wandered in the wilderness, God instructed them to build the Tabernacle. After it was completed, Exodus 40:34-38 says that the cloud covered – it ‘overshadowed’ – the Tabernacle and the glory of Yahweh filled it.
For several hundred years, the Tabernacle continued to be the place where God dwelt among His people. Then, in our Old Testament text (2 Samuel 7:1-16), David realizes something – he is living in a nice, warm, comfortable house, but God is dwelling in a tent. Tents are for camping. Someone has said, “Camping is fun, if you like to pretend to be homeless.” So David decided to build God a house. But God told David that He had something much better in store. Through Nathan, God told David, “No, David. You’re not going to build a house for Me. I’m going to build a house for you. Your house and your kingdom shall be established forever.”
After David died, Solomon built the Temple. 1 Kings 8 tells how the priests took the ark of the covenant and placed it in the Temple. Again, the cloud descended on the Temple – think ‘overshadowed’ again – and the glory of Yahweh filled the Temple.
As more centuries passed, the people of Israel began to sacrifice to pagan gods. Because of this, God sent the people into exile and allowed Babylon to destroy His Temple. Then when King Cyrus let the people of Israel return to their land, he told them to rebuild the Temple. But when this second Temple was dedicated, the cloud did not overshadow it. God’s glory did not return. This was very troubling for the people of Israel. God’s glory had departed, and it hadn’t come back.
However, through the prophets, God repeatedly promised that His glory would return to His Temple (Hag. 2:19, Zech. 8-9). Centuries passed, but God’s glory still did not return. Fast-forward several hundred years, King Herod began a large building project improving the second Temple and the grounds around it. But still, the glory did not return.
Then, suddenly, right here in our text, Gabriel tells Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” God’s messenger, Gabriel, tells Mary, “The glory and the cloud is going to descend upon you, Mary. God is coming again to dwell with His people.” For the nine months of her pregnancy, Mary was literally the temple, the place where God’s glory dwelt. And finally, when Jesus was 40 days old, God returned to His Temple.
There are three miracles are in this text: First, God and man are joined together in the Child conceived in Mary’s womb. The second is that Mary, a virgin, would conceive a Child. But third, and most miraculously, that Mary believed God’s word that this would actually happen.
Now, Mary is not the first believer. Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and all the godly Old Testament believers had faith in God’s promised Messiah, the Christ. But Mary is the first to learn the identity of God’s Messiah. The Child conceived in her womb is the Savior of the world. Mary is first in the line of faith in the person of Jesus.
The church of Rome goes too far in exalting Mary, and they are wrong to do so. However, we Christians outside of the Roman church have made the opposite error. We lower Mary too much. Mary truly is the mother of God. God was with Mary in a way that He will never be with another human. If you believe the creeds, then this is what you believe.
God entered the womb of only one woman, Mary. But through that union, God enters you. Gabriel’s greeting to Mary (literally translated), “Rejoice, favored woman, the Lord is with you,” is also true for you. God was with Mary, so He can be your Emmanuel – God with you.
The glory of God that overshadowed the Tabernacle and the Temple and the glory of God that overshadowed Mary, also overshadows you. Yes, it is a miracle that a virgin conceives, but that is child’s play for the Lord and Giver of life. It is a miracle that God joined Himself to human flesh, but nothing is impossible with God.
The real miracle here is faith. That Mary believed these words of God is a miracle. However, God is doing that same miracle here and now. God speaks to you, now, through His Word. You have already confessed that you believe these words of God in the Creed. You have confessed that you believe that Jesus, this Son of Mary, died and rose again for your sins. Just like Mary, but with different words, you have said, “Behold, I am the slave of God. Let it be to me as you have said.” Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.