Text: Luke 1:26-38
Every year around December 20th, I’m reminded of the difference between my Christmas expectations and reality.
Expectations: Trim the tree! Write the cards! Sing the carols! Wrap the gifts! Bake the cookies! Ring the bells! See the people! Read the stories! Smell the smells! Feel the feelings! Use all the exclamation points! Repeat!
Reality: Have you ever seen The Best Christmas Pageant Ever? Where the Herdman children attend church for the snacks? And the girl who plays Mary almost burns the church down with her cigarette? And the children think Christmas is a story about spies? These should have been my expectations.
I don’t know about you, but from where I stand, all is not calm, nor is it bright. Sung more accurately, I would choose: “all is confusing, all is broken.” Anyone else? Praise the Lord that Christmas cheer is not the gospel.
Things were not calm or bright for Mary, either. In fact, when the angel Gabriel appeared, Scripture tells us she was greatly troubled (Luke 1:29). She’d expected to live a quiet, humble life with her soon-to-be husband, Joseph, but the news about her reality changed everything.
Gabriel said, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 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, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
- Luke 1:30-33
To the world, all would not have appeared calm nor bright, yet Mary was pregnant with hope. Gabriel’s news confirmed to her that the God she believed in was real—Hope incarnate was being knit together within her.
The same is true for us, isn’t it? The annunciation is a reminder that what we hope for is true and with us. He is Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). It declares the surety of our expectations and confidence in our reality.
Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
- Luke 1:34
I think this is my favorite thing Mary ever says. She shows the natural human doubt that comes so easily to us: “How can this be, since I am ______?” You and I could insert a million things here—all the reasons we find to doubt God’s plans for us—couldn’t we?
God loves to birth hope from the impossible. This is the Truth that lies in a manger. The angel’s response to Mary’s doubt points her to the answer: It’s not up to her. It’s not up to us.
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”
- Luke 1:35
Friends, all may not be calm or bright in our broken world, but all is His. May Christ overshadow our expectations and understanding with His presence. May we hear and receive the same good news delivered to Mary: Hope is born within us through Christ. Hallelujah.