For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been looking at some of the key characters of the Christmas story. And I’m not talking about Rudolph or Santa Claus – that’s a different story all together! I’m talking about the original Christmas story – the historic events that actually happened some 2000 years ago and are still packed with meaning and significant for us even today.
And I expect that most of us are familiar with the events of that first Christmas – how Jesus was born and laid in a manger – how the angels appeared to the shepherds and how the wisemen brought their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Those are all the traditional Christmas scenes that we sing about in our Christmas carols or we display in our nativity arrangements.
And of course, if you’re not familiar with those events, I’d invite you to come to our Christmas Eve service this Friday as those events will be the focus of our Christmas celebration.
But for our Sunday morning messages as Christmas approaches, we’ve been taking a deeper look not at the events of Christmas, but rather at the characters of Christmas.
We started by looking at Jesus Himself. Who is this baby who was born and was laid in a manger? And what is so significant about that child that we continue to celebrate his birth even 2000 years later!? To find those answers, we looked in the Gospel of John and saw that Jesus was not just an ordinary baby, but was in fact, the second person of the Godhead – the eternally existing Creator of the world – now born as a human being. He truly is Emmanuel – which means God is with us. And what’s all the more amazing is that He came to be with us so that we could be with Him for eternity.
Then last week we took a closer look at Joseph. We don’t read a lot about Joseph’s life in the Bible – he kinda comes across as a minor player in the pages of Scripture, but as we saw last week, Joseph really was a spiritual giant – truly a model of righteous character and faith in God. He is perhaps one of the best examples for us to follow in how to be a godly father and husband.
Now today we want to look at a third major character in the Christmas story – and that of course, is Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Like Joseph, she too, is a pretty amazing example of someone who displayed an absolute trust in God. When you consider all that she went through – especially considering how young she was at the time – her faith and obedience to God are truly remarkable. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
As I mentioned last week, when Matthew writes his Gospel and records the birth of Jesus, he focuses almost exclusively on Joseph. He begins with Joseph’s family tree, he talks about Joseph’s dilemma when he discovers that Mary was pregnant before they were married, and he records the four different visits that Joseph had from the angel. But he really doesn’t say anything about Mary.
In contrast to that, when Luke writes his Gospel, he hardly mentions Joseph at all. He focuses his attention primarily on Mary. And that’s why it’s so great that we have four different Gospels. Each Gospel tells the true story of Jesus, but they all tell it from a slightly different perspective. That really helps us get a well-rounded understanding of really happened.
And so now, having looked at Joseph through the eyes of Matthew last week, today we’re going to look at Mary through the eyes of Luke. So if you have your Bibles with you, you can turn with me to Luke chapter 1.
However, we’re not going to start at verse 1 because Luke doesn’t begin his Gospel with Mary – he actually begins with Mary’s relatives – specifically, a priest named Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth.
And I don’t want to spend a lot of time going through their story this morning, but let me just quickly summarize it for you so you know what’s going on when we get into Mary’s story.
Zechariah and Elizabeth have been unable to have children and the Bible describes them now as “both being very old.” Obviously too old now, to have any expectation of still being able to have children.
But one day, an angel named Gabriel appears to Zechariah and tells him that his wife, Elizabeth, is going to have a baby and that their baby would be the one to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. Of course, every Israelite had been waiting for the coming of the Lord for quite some time now. In fact, for the last several hundred years, God had promised through the prophets had that he would send a Messiah – a descendant of King David who would save the Israelites and would rule Israel forever!
So this was pretty huge news for Zechariah and Elizabeth – not only where they finally going to have the baby that they had always wanted, but their baby would prepare the way for the future King of Israel!
Oh and one more thing, their baby was going to be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth – and his name was to be John – we would eventually come to know him as John the Baptist.
So with that as the backdrop, Luke begins to tell the story of Mary in Luke chapter 1, verse 26.