Christmas Announced – Luke 1:26-38


The text this morning is from the Gospel of Luke 1:26-38. These are the Words of God:

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. 


It had been 400 years since any new prophecy had been uttered in Israel. After the Persian king, Cyrus sent Israel home from their Babylonian exile, Ezra over saw the rebuilding of the temple and Nehemiah oversaw the rebuilding of Jerusalem—but for centuries now, God had been silent.

Alexander the Great had conquered the Persians, and Rome had conquered the Greeks. Two entire empires had risen and fallen since God has spoken in Israel.

That’s where the Gospel of Luke begins. The first part of chapter 1 records the visit of the angel Gabriel to announce the birth of John the Baptist—the prophet who would be a forerunner of Christ. Now, in verse 26 that same Gabriel appears again.

He’s sent to Nazareth in the 6th month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Nazareth, you well know was not a metropolitan area. It was more like Chester S.C.

He was sent to a virgin named Mary. And, unlike most fo the medieval paintings youv’e seen, Mary was not a 30 year old woman who looks matronly and pristine. Instead, she would have been closer to 14 years old, and we’re told she was betrothed to marry a man from King David’s lineage—Joseph.

Notice that when Gabriel greets Mary he does so with respect and even honor. He calls her “O favored one.” The King James says, “Highly Favored.” It’s a reminder that Mary, though she was not sinless as the Roman Catholic Church teaches, yet she was a woman who loved the Lord and is one of the most blessed women in history. 

When Mary later visits her cousin, Elizabeth, Elizabeth called her “Blessed.” And when Mary composes her famous Magnificat in Luke 2 she says, “From now on all generations will call me blessed.”

The reason, though, for her blessedness, didn’t primarily lay in Mary herself. Mary was born as a sinful human just like you and me. What made her blessed was the second part of Gabriel’s announcement: “Greetings, O Favored one, the Lord is with you.”

In verse 29, Mary has the response that is nearly universal whenever angels show up in the Bible: she’s deeply troubled. Most of the time, when an angel shows us, people fall to the ground because they think they’re about to be killed.

Gabriel then delivers what must have been the greatest announcement in all of history: Mary, though a virgin, would conceive and bear a son. And this wouldn’t be any son—he will be the Son of the Most High. And the Lord will give him the throne of his father, David.

Mary, being a good Jew understood the magnitude of this moment. She knew that God made a covenant with David in the Old Testament that one day God would send an heir who would reign on David’s throne and his kingdom would never end.

Mary, of course, needs some reassurance: “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” v. 34. Gabriel gives her more information—but ultimately he calls her to faith. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” It’s not so much an explanation as it is a call to believe that God will accomplish what he has promised to do.

“Elizabeth, your cousin who you thought would never conceive is in the sixth month of her pregnancy—and with God, nothing is impossible.”

The angelic visit concludes as Mary submits to the Word of God in verse 38.


The first thing this passage teaches us is that even the delays in history are providential. Even the delays are providential. Yes, it had been 400 years since God has given fresh and new revelation of himself in Israel. The prophets had been silent. There were no angelic visitors that we know of. Two empires had risen and fallen. And many were tempted to ask, “Where is God? Why isn’t he doing anything? He brought us back from Babylon. We rebuilt the temple… why is he silent?” 

And yet, Paul tells us in Galatians 4:4-7 that when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his only Son.

The moment Gabriel appeared to Mary wasn’t random. It wasn’t haphazard. Neither was the 400 years of silence preceding that very moment. 

As we read through the Bible we see that God is orchestrating all things according to his great power—and he’s even orchestrating the delays. He’s orchestrating the side-tracks. The delays are on schedule. The setbacks are going according to plan. 

Joe Posnanski once said, “I never argue with people who say baseball is boring, because baseball is boring. And then, suddenly, it isn’t. And that’s what makes baseball great.”

To apply that quote to our passage we might say that even the boring parts of history are providential. Even God’s silence is fulfilling his purposes. 

Two thousand years ago, God sent his Son who lived a perfectly obedient life, died as a substitute for sinners, and was raised. And for the last 2,000 years he has been seated at the right hand of the majesty on high and he has sent his Spirit to empower the church to preach the gospel to every creature. 

And that’s where you and I are at in this grand story. Too many Christians have looked at the chaos of the last year and a half and feared that maybe we took a bad detour, when in reality, we’re right where God wants us. We’re right when God wants us. 

That is not to say that everything that is happening is good—but it is to say that even tumult occurs within the providential plans of God.

This universe isn’t spinning out of control. There is a firm hand on the steering wheel. 


Second, blessedness is God being with you. Blessedness is God being with you.

Here in the South you hear people say, “Bless your heart,” all the time. And, if you aren’t from the South you need to know that when someone says, “Bless your heart,” that isn’t exactly a compliment. That’s what Southerners say when they can’t think of anything particularly nice to say.

But when you come to the Scriptures, the word blessed primarily means experiencing God’s presence. This goes all the way back to Numbers 6:

24 The Lord bless you and keep you; 

25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 

26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. 

Blessedness is connected with the Lord being with us; looking upon us, giving us his peace.

As I said earlier, Mary isn’t blessed or highly favored because she was sinless. The source of her blessedness was that the God who made her had come near to be with her. 

28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”

She wasn’t blessed because she chose God so much as she was blessed because God chose her. Indeed, the child she bore would be called Immanuel which means “God with us.” This greeting of Gabriel contains in it the entire ministry of Christ—why is the Lord with Mary? Why is he with us? Because the Son of God has come in human flesh.  Somehow the one who lived in radiance took on human flesh. The one who lived in eternity submitted to the constraints of time and space. Jesus Christ was both complete in divinity, and complete in manhood. This one person, Jesus, had two natures—divine and human. And in regard to his manhood, he was just like us—except without sin.

And he did all this so that he could die as a substitute for sinners and raised by the power of God on the 3rdday.

All this happened, according to the plan of God, in order that God’s presence would be a blessing to us, and not a terror. At the cross, God’s terrible wrath against our sin came down upon Jesus, so that God’s favor and blessing could come down upon us.

Christmas means that God has blessed you if you will receive it. The incarnation of Christ means your sins will be forgiven if you will confess them. Christmas time means that regardless of your outward comforts, regardless of your inner anxieties—the God who is unapproachable has come near to you in his Son, Jesus Christ. 

Thomas Watson… 

The treasures of a saint are the presence of God, the favor of God, union and communion with God, the pardon of sin, the joy of the Spirit, and the peace of conscience. These are jewels which none can give but Christ, nor none can take away but Christ… the saints can say under all their troubles and afflictions, that they have food to eat, and drink to drink, that the world knows not of; that they have such incomes, such refreshments, such warmings, that they would not exchange for all the honors, riches, and dainties of this world. 


Third, this passage teaches us that it’s possible to question God with faith. It’s possible to doubt while still putting your faith in God. 

We didn’t read the verses leading up to verse 26, so let me summarize them for you. In that passage, the angel Gabriel was sent to make an announcement to a man named Zechariah. He served as a priest before the Lord in the temple and his wife, Elizabeth, was unable to have children. Gabriel appeared to Zechariah, and just like Mary, Zechariah was troubled. 

Gabriel told Zechariah to not be afraid just as he did Mary. He announced a birth, just as he did with Mary – and just like Mary, Zechariah couldn’t understand how it was possible for his wife to be pregnant.

Both Mary and Zechariah question how this will be possible, and yet Zechariah’s disbelief is met with rebuke. Gabriel says that Zechariah will not be able to speak until the child is born because he did not believe.

Now, it’s interesting that Mary had far greater reason to question and doubt. Elizabeth may have been barren, but Mary was a virgin. Which of these comes with greater difficulties to conceive?

So, what are we to make of this? Two announcements. Two questioners. One is rebuked and the other praised? Why? And the answer must be that while Mary had questions, her questioning believed there was an answer in God, and Zechariah did not. 

To be a Christian does not mean that you never have questions. There are plenty of doctrines that are over our head. And Christians grow as they ask hard questions about hard doctrines.

So, there is a way to question God in faith, and a way to doubt God in faithlessness. What’s the difference between questions and doubts? Questions have answers and doubts do not.

How can a just God love sinners, is a question.

What if God doesn’t love me is a doubt

So, you may have plenty of questions: 

  • How is the Bible the Word of God?
  • How can God be totally sovereign, yet human being be free?
  • How can God be good and loving and allow suffering?

Those are all hard questions. And you ought to ask them without fear. As one pastor said, “Don’t worry whether the Bible can stand up to your question. It’s an anvil that has worn out many hammers.”

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is 2 Peter 3:16

Some things Paul writes are difficult to understand

So, don’t despair if there are doctrines you don’t yet understand. Continue reading the Word. Continue worshipping with the church. Trust that even though you have big questions, God has big answers.


Finally, this passage teaches us that God is the God of irony. Think about it. This passage shows us the greatest announcement in history. God is coming.

Yet where is it announced? Not in Jerusalem, not in Rome. It’s announced in Nazareth. It’s a back-woods town. “Nothing good comes out of Nazareth.” It was a common phrase.

And to whom is it announced? There’s no press conference called. There’s no cable news media there with their cameras and microphones. God didn’t invite the Emperor. He didn’t invite any Pharisees. Gabriel comes to Mary all by herself.

And consider the content of this announcement. God is sending the one who will reign forever. His kingdom will have no end—and yet, this ruler will come as a baby. He will come, not in strength, but in weakness. He will come, not with caravans and armies, he will come naked. The one who made the galaxies consented to have his diapers changed.

And, looking back over the Bible we see this is how God always does things.

  • Sarah – Barren
  • Jacob – second born.
  • Leah – ugly sister
  • David – youngest son

God is always confounding the wisdom of the wise with folly and the strength of the strong with weakness.

But God doesn’t love irony simply for the sake of irony. The Son of God doesn’t stoop so low just to see if he could do it. Rather, God ordained that stooping low would be the very means that the victory is won.

Christ gains the world by losing heaven. He defeats sin by bearing sin. He overcomes death through death.

In the same way—this Christmas season—do not underestimate the small stuff. Because none of it is small stuff.

Delivering the Faith

Some of you have noticed that in the last year we’ve moved from reciting the Apostles Creed monthly to every week, and I figured I would tell you why.

Our endeavor as a congregation isn’t simply to form individual Christians. We are out to form a distinct Christian community. A community that embraces and cherishes the truths of the faith. A community which is bound by those truths. A community that will live and die for those truths.

Jude says that the faith has been delivered to us. The faith isn’t of our own making. God has delivered the faith to us through centuries of faithful Christians and our responsibility is to steward and contend for that faith. This generation of Christians is responsible to deliver that same faith to the next generation—untampered with. 

So, we are saying the creed each week so that we will memorize the faith we are to contend for. The goal in this memorization isn’t so we can rattle the creed off without thinking about it. Rather, as we memorize the creed we internalize it, we embrace it, we are shaped and formed by the truths it contains. We say the creed so that our own hearts can revel in the majesty and glory of our God.

We want our children to know and worship the God we serve. Therefore, we recite the creed to establish the truths of the Christian faith firmly in their minds. Parents, you are to practice the creed with them in your homes so that when we worship as a community the voices of children can join with as much strength as the adults.

And, finally, we aren’t called to mumble the creed. We aren’t shouting it either. But are these things true? Are these truths the bedrock of all reality? Then say them like they are. And, say them as if the entire world is listening. 

We are ordering our lives under the truths of Scripture, and we are calling the nations to do the same.

Companion Sins


If you’ve ever grown a vegetable garden, you know that certain plants make great companions. Native Americans famously planted the Three Sisters together: corn, pole beans, and squash. The tall stalks of corn made great support for the climbing beans and the low growing squash shades the ground to retain moisture and suppress weed growth.

In the same way, certain sins make great companions. One sin runs defense for another. One sin provides shade under which other sins can grow.

Outbursts of anger grow under the shade of excuse making. “Well, I snapped because I was hungry.” Or “You know, I was only short with you because you’ve been short with me all day.” As if the sin of excuse making atones for the sin of uncontrolled anger.

The sin of sloth loves to be planted beside the sin of dishonesty. “No, I haven’t finished my homework because I was cleaning my room,” when you were really just playing with your toys.” 

Coveting pops up next to lust, greed, jealousy, and anger. When we covet the promotion that someone else received we begin justifying our cool attitude to them in the break room. We covet our neighbor’s house and compound that sin by failing to be thankful for the house God has given us in his grace

All of this is to say that sin isn’t a lone ranger. Sin loves the company of other sins. So, train yourself to realize that when you see one sin… stop and look around. There are probably a few companions growing next to it. And remember, that Jesus’ sacrifice isn’t just sufficient for the one sin you see. He’s sufficient for all the sins you missed too. 

This reminds us of our need to confess, so pray with me now.


Our Father in Heaven,

Seeing how high and holy you are, how exalted you are in heaven and on earth, in comparison we know ourselves to be puny. We are small and finite creatures, and more than this, we are fallen sinners. We confess that we’ve inherited a sinful nature from our father Adam, and that from the day of our birth we have been inclined to evil. And we confess that we’ve freely chosen sin. We have not loved you with full hearts. We have not obeyed your law. Instead, we have loved ourselves and lived by rules of our own making.

Father, we confess that our confidence in ourselves has been foolish and destructive—and we confess that we are accountable to you. If your justice was applied to our record, we know that none of us could stand. We are all condemned by our own thoughts, attitudes, and actions.

Father you have said that if we conceal our guilt it will remain, but if we confess our guilt to you, you will pardon and forgive. So, Father, we know that if we say “amen” to this prayer, yet continue to regard sin in our hearts this prayer will be ineffectual, so we confess our individual sins to you now in silence. Hear our prayers.

Father, thank you that mercy multiplies more in you than sin in us. We ask that according to the multitude of your tender mercies—blot out our transgressions. Though we are red as crimson—make us white as snow. And we ask all this in the strong name of Jesus. Amen.


 3 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,  O Lord, who could stand? 

But with you there is forgiveness,  that you may be feared. 

Glorious Deeds, Safe Refuge

CALL TO WORSHIP – Psalm 33:1-9

33 Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright. 

Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! 

Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. 

For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. 

He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord. 

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. 

He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. 

Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! 

For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. 


Our Great and Glorious Father,

We’ve come today in obedience to your call to come and worship. And we come with confidence into your presence by the blood of Jesus—we know that he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life—and that no one will see you except through him.

So, we come in Jesus’ name, made alive by his death, forgiven because he bore the punishment for our sins, and we turn now, with undivided attention to behold your glory.

Father, we praise you for you are the only living and true God. There is none like you. The gods of the nations are no gods at all. You alone are the everlasting King and ruler. You alone are truly immortal and you dwell in unapproachable light.

Father, our eyes are dazzled by the colorful display of leaves that are falling—and which will soon turn to dirt and dust. How much more dazzling is your glory which has no end? How much greater is your power, which has made every living thing that is on the earth, in the skies, and in the depths of the oceans?

If we climbed to the top of world, your glory would still be above us, and if we sank into the deepest trench of the sea, your glory would be deeper still. From everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You are the one who spoke the universe into existence with a Word and you hold galaxies in the palm of your hand. How great, how awesome are your deeds.

Father, we praise you for you have made us. We are not our own but are yours. We are your people, the sheep of your pasture. In your hand is our breath, and it is because of your enduring love that we have not been cut off.

Father, we take refuge in you. For you alone, our souls wait in silence—for you are our Rock and our Salvation. Some trust in their intellect, others in their strength, but we trust in you. Some trust in governors, and some in kings, but our hope has been set on the throne that is higher than all others.

So, we turn toward heaven, and lift our gaze, and know that you are there, overruling and undertaking for your people. Give us now, lips that praise, and holy hands to raise, and hearts that are near to you in love.

We worship you Father, through Jesus Christ the Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit. One God, world without end. And Amen.

Sermon Manuscript: “What is a Man?” Genesis 1-2

Below you’ll find links both to the sermon audio and manuscript I wrote for this sermon. I pray they will encourage you in your walk with Christ and spur you on to godliness.

<iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" allow="autoplay" src=""></iframe><div style="font-size: 10px; color: #cccccc;line-break: anywhere;word-break: normal;overflow: hidden;white-space: nowrap;text-overflow: ellipsis; font-family: Interstate,Lucida Grande,Lucida Sans Unicode,Lucida Sans,Garuda,Verdana,Tahoma,sans-serif;font-weight: 100;"><a href="" title="Lake Wylie Baptist Church" target="_blank" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;">Lake Wylie Baptist Church</a> · <a href="" title="&quot;What is a Man?&quot; Genesis 1-2" target="_blank" style="color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;">&quot;What is a Man?&quot; Genesis 1-2</a></div>