The story of the announcement and birth of Jesus inspires and blesses all of us. We hear the angel Gabriel say to Mary, "…you have found favor with God." (Luke 1:30b) and we wonder at what a marvelous surprise from heaven Mary and Joseph received. But what turned out to be the single greatest blessing in the history of the family might instead have been a great tragedy.
Unlike the "first family," Adam and Eve, whose disobedience in the Garden of Eden has condemned mankind from that day until now, the "second family," Joseph and Mary, believed God rather than Satan and obeyed Him even though they were not yet married. They faced social disgrace at the announcement that Mary was with child, but God blessed them in their obedience.
I. The Lord is with you (Luke 1:26-28)
Joseph and Mary were an insignificant couple from an obscure town until God decided to send them a surprise from heaven. Their story reminds us that no matter where we are or who we are, God is with us. A young, engaged woman about to receive the news that she is expecting a child. What a wonderful surprise! Or was it?
Mary was a young virgin, looking forward to marrying the man she loved, but now this! What would she do? What could she do? Would her friends believe her story? Would Joseph believe it? Did she believe it? Mary had to choose whether she would believe God and trust Him with this Child, or rather despair of her situation and do something tragic.
A. Who are you?
God knows who you are. Mary was about to become the wife of a man named Joseph. Joseph was not a rich man, but he was a man descended from royalty. Together, Joseph and Mary would become the earthly parents of the Heavenly King. Although they must have felt small and insignificant, God knew who they really were.
God is not so much interested in where we have been in life as He is interested in where we are going. In their wildest imaginations, Mary and Joseph could never have dreamed that they would be the parents of the Most High God. But God had plans for them. He has a plan for you too. As a believer, you may feel small and insignificant, but to God, you are "highly favored!" As you are faced with difficult choices, remember that God knows who you are, and He is with you no matter who you are.
B. Where are you?
God also knows where you are. Not only physically speaking, but spiritually speaking as well. At the time of the annunciation, Mary was a young woman who was spiritually mature.
God meets us where we are and He will use us if and when we are in the proper spiritual place to participate in His plans. As you are faced with difficult choices, remember God knows where you are both physically and spiritually, and He wants to use you there.
II. Obedience requires believing the impossible (Luke 1:29-34)
A. Help me to believe!
A man once said to Jesus, "I do believe! Help my unbelief" (Mark 9:24). One can imagine that Mary might have thought the same thing when Gabriel told her she was with child even though she knew she was a virgin. Although Mary was greatly troubled at the angel's words, he told her not to be afraid because she was highly favored!
Often, we find it hard to believe that we are favored by God because of our circumstances. Unlike Mary, we cannot deny that our actions have brought us to whatever spot we are in. It is easy to give in to fear and forget that God has favored us. Satan wants us to forget that it is God who judges and that He is a merciful God. Adam and Eve forgot this when they sinned in the garden. They even hid from God. But Mary chose to believe the impossible. She accepted what she could not explain simply because she knew she was hearing God's chosen messenger.God's message to her was, "You are one of my favorites."
B. Help me glorify the Lord!
In spite of the dangers of being a husbandless mother, Mary later praised God for sending her a surprise from heaven (Luke 1:46-55). Did Mary completely understand why this was happening to her? Probably not. Did she know how her betrothed husband would react? No. Still, rather than follow her fears of being rejected by society and her husband, Mary decided to glorify God. May God help us to glorify Him when we are faced with societal pressures, fears, and difficult choices.
III. There is nothing God cannot do (Luke 1:35-38)
A. Because it is hard
When President John F. Kennedy announced that the United States would attempt to put a man on the moon and return him safely back to earth, he added, "We accept this challenge not because it is easy, but because it is hard." God often offers us hard challenges. When we accept those challenges, we give testimony of our faith in God to do the impossible. When the angel reminded Mary that God can do anything, she replied, "Consider me the Lord's slave.May it be done to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38)
B. Because we believe
Families today are faced with many difficult challenges. They must show a skeptical world that they really believe in the promises of God by living out those promises day by day. Faced with challenges to the institution of the family like divorce, same-sex marriage, abortion, adultery, and all the rest, Christian families must be different to be credible. If we are obedient to God's Word it will not be because it is easy, but because we believe.
When God sends our family a surprising challenge it is always intended to bless us. We can either respond in faith and obedience or in doubt and failure. Families facing difficult challenges can respond as the lost world would, or they can obey God's Word and show the world a different way. Just as Joseph and Mary obeyed God when He sent them a surprise from heaven, we must remember that the Lord is always with us. He knows who we are and where we are and He wants to use us there. Obedience is often easier to talk about than to practice however. When we are fearful about our challenges, we should ask God to help us and then we should seek to glorify Him in our obedience.We can successfully face the hard choices of life if we truly believe that God can do anything.
British missionary William Carey's famous quote, "Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God" is very meaningful to those who have received a special challenge or calling from God. Like Mary and Joseph, we may be called on at any time to walk a path for Him that has rarely, if ever, been walked before. We must teach our family not to fear "surprises from heaven," but to face them faithfully and obediently.
A surprise from heaven
Mrs. White was shocked when her third son was diagnosed as severely mentally retarded. Her husband and other children stood speechless as the doctor told them that their newest family member would never learn to walk or to talk. He would be as helpless as an infant all his life. In the 1940's the mentally handicapped were often placed in institutions and shunned by embarrassed family members. This response to a sad condition was fairly common when Bubba was born in 1946.
But Mrs. White and her family decided they could never do their son that way. God had sent them a surprise from heaven and they were responsible for both loving him and for caring for him. Bubba would live at home and they would do whatever was necessary to give him as normal a life as possible. Besides, Mrs. White still held out hope that Bubba's condition was not as bad as the doctors were saying. Or, perhaps, there would be some kind of miracle cure for his condition. She took Bubba home and cared for him as only a proud mother would.
But some 50 years later, Bubba had turned out just as the doctors had predicted. Mrs. White, now a widow, and the surviving brothers and sisters, still had to care for Bubba, a grown man with gray hair, just as if he was an infant. They fed him, they played with him, they bathed him, and they loved him. Although he could not talk, Bubba expressed his love for his mother by facial expressions and by grunting. To Mrs. White, Bubba's grunts were just like the sounds of a healthy bouncing boy saying, "Mama."
Mrs. White, now in her early 80's, was asked if she regretted her decision to bring Bubba home instead of putting him in an institution. Her response was immediate and emphatic, "If we had left our son in some home, we would have avoided a lot of work and many tears. But we would also have missed one of the greatest blessings ever to come into our family. Bubba has kept us together because we love him the same way he loves us, unconditionally."
That's the way God loves us too, unconditionally. Remember that the next time God sends you a surprise from heaven. (Names and facts have been changed to guard the true-life identities).
Additional sermon starter
Keeping your family's boat afloat (Genesis 7-8)
The modern day family faces a culture similar to that of Noah's day. Like Noah, we should do whatever we can to spread the news that judgment is coming. How better to do that than by building our own family's "spiritual boat" in preparation for judgment. When we labor for God to build our family's faith, plank by plank, in the face of ridicule, we show the world God's truth and we separate ourselves from His judgment.