SUMMER REBOOT – this podcast was originally published in Advent, on 18 December 2018.
Hello and welcome to Tuesday’s Foundation Podcast. This week we are looking at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel – the Christmas story. For many of us listening today, these are familiar characters and passages to us. We know the story so well. And it’s because of that, that we can often miss the significance of the spiritual truths contained with them.
Why is the Christmas story so significant? Well, as Tim Keller, writes – to understand Christmas is to understand the Gospel. In today’s passage, which you can hear read out in full at the end, the angel Gabriel tells a slightly doubtful Zechariah that he was sent by God to bring ‘good news’. The Gospel is the good news about Jesus, and of course we know that there are so many people – family, friends, school mates, colleagues who, like Zechariah who are doubtful, or for many who are just simply not even aware that there is good news, that there is a God and that he loves them. We, the church, have an important role to play in sharing the good news with the people God places around us. This festive season, our friends/family may be more open to coming to church. There’s an awful lot happening in our nation at the minute which is causing people to ask questions. We may well find that we have more opportunities to share our faith with them, to talk about what we believe. Understanding the truths of the Christmas story means we are better equipped to do just that.
Yesterday, we reflected on the word ‘joy’. The Christmas story brings us joy. It enables us to see how gracious and loving our God is.
Today we see that the Christmas story is a story that displays God’s power. In addition to the announcement of the birth of John, we also hear today the angel Gabriel informing Mary that she too will give birth to a son – whom they will call Jesus.
The angel brings this extraordinary revelation – this good news – to Mary. And in a way the significant thing about Zechariah and Elizabeth, about Mary and Joseph, is that they are seemingly insignificant. Zechariah and Elizabeth are an elderly faithful couple who are simply going about doing the very best that they can. Mary is a young girl betrothed to a tradesman living in Nazareth – a small rural community in the back end of nowhere. Yet it’s in this ordinariness that God chooses to bring his extraordinary presence, to birth his son Jesus into. It seems unbelievable!
And Mary rightly asks that question of the angel. How can this be? How can I give birth to God’s son when I’m a virgin? Here’s our focus verse for today – It’s the angel Gabriel’s final message to Mary before he leaves her and it’s the answer to her question…‘For nothing will be impossible with God’.
What we read today from a medical, biological point of view sounds impossible! Mary is a virgin – how can she conceive. But beyond that it poses an even greater spiritual impossibility. How can God live in us? How can God dwell in a human being? How does that happen? We discover today that it can only happen because it’s a God thing. Because God chooses us. His actions reveal His power.
The angel tells Mary that 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’. This all comes about because God wanted it to come about. God promised his people the messiah, a king of the house of David – someone who would rule on his throne forever, someone who would free his people. The angel tells Mary – God has chosen you.
And because God chooses Mary – he also chooses us. That promise that God makes Mary – the Holy Spirit will come upon you. The Holy Spirit will come to you. That promise God makes to Mary, he makes to us. Because it’s through the fulfilment of that promise – through Jesus – that we can have God live in us, in me, in you. To not just know God, not just believe in him, but have him live in us. We can have a relationship with God.
‘For nothing will be impossible with God’.
The Christmas story displays God’s power as he chooses us. He sends his Spirit to us. The one who will be born to the unmarried teenager in the middle of seemingly nowhere – that baby boy will become a man. A man who will go to the cross, as we read last week, and doing so will make a way for us to receive the Holy Spirit. To have the very presence of God dwelling in us.
‘For nothing is impossible with God’.
Let’s be people today who take the time to give thanks, to worship and rejoice our powerful God who chooses us. God has come to live in us – what a powerful message and what a great opportunity we have this festive season to share that with those around us as we invite them to church services, around for dinner, as we respond when talk turns to what’s happening in our nation, in our world – amidst it all – God is with us.
God, thank you for Jesus. Thank you that you came into our world – so that we could know God with us and that God dwells within us. That nothing is impossible with you. May we be people who bring that powerful message to those you have placed around us. In Jesus name. Amen.
READING: Luke 1:18-38
Zechariah asked the angel, ‘How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well on in years.’
The angel said to him, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.’
Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realised he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. ‘The Lord has done this for me,’ she said. ‘In these days he has shown his favour and taken away my disgrace among the people.’
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants for ever; his kingdom will never end.’
‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’
The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.’
‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her.