Third Wednesday in Advent

Third Wednesday in Advent       MARY    18    ANNUNCIATION,conception, lineage

Scripture: Luke 1:26-38

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”

29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. 37 For the word of God will never fail.”

38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

Some thoughts:

     In these days leading up to the Nativity, we’ll focus more specifically on the very familiar and wondrous events surrounding the birth that brought reconciliation to the world in carrying forth God’s plan. The marvelous thing about God’s Word is that one can go back again and again to familiar passages and discover new insights. The Bible is truly the living word. Let’s look at the Annunciation.

     The actual month of Jesus’ birth is unknown. Of course the Bible does not say exactly when he was born. Speculations vary from September to springtime. The month of December is possible as winter temperatures in Bethlehem vary from 47 to 57 degrees Fahrenheit during the month though that is not the best time for sheep to be in the fields at night. Many reasons have been put forth supporting various months and theories. Without getting on a rabbit trail, Zechariah’s time in the Temple and his visit from the angel Gabriel can be dated to roughly mid-June, based on Jewish festivals and priestly service schedules. (We know which priestly group he belonged to. Refer back to First Saturday in Advent devotional.) If that is the case, John would have been born in March of the following year. Since Mary visited Elizabeth in her sixth month, just after she had conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit, Mary would have been visited by Gabriel in December meaning Jesus would have been born in September. While nothing is certain, this is one possible scenario put forth for example. The point I’m getting at is to help us balance the reality of what happened in real time in history with the more nostalgic viewpoint of Jesus’ birth.

     Mary was minding her own business in an ordinary day when the angel Gabriel appeared to her. Ask yourself what you would think if an angel told you that you are favored by God and “the Lord is with you.” Nothing else. Just those words. Then the angel repeats the words “You have found favor with God.” As often happens in such circumstances, the heavenly messenger explains the opening statement in greater detail (E.g., Zechariah, Daniel). I remind us that Jews living in the New Testament era knew the Old Testament very well and were well versed with the prophecies. One of the reasons I believe Mary was responsive to Gabriel comes out of what the angel said. Mary would have known Isaiah’s―“behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son . . . Son of the Most High,” another familiar phrase.

     Finally, Gabriel refers to the “throne of his ancestor David,” his reign over Israel forever and the Kingdom of this baby conceived in her will never end. Notice, unlike Zechariah, Mary didn’t balk at any of the angel’s words, she just wanted to know how it could happen. The angel explained the conception process very simply (the power of the Most High will overshadow you). The phrasing for the conception of Jesus uses the same words as when the Spirit “hovered” over the waters at the dawn of creation (Gen. 1:2). In other words, the conception of Jesus was by the power of God. Gabriel further affirmed his message telling her about her relative, the sixth month pregnant Elizabeth! Mary’s response to Gabriel’s news was simply, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”

     I want to go back and look a little further at Mary’s Jewish heritage which I believe gives added insight into this whole event. Jews in this era knew their own lineage far more than we know ours today. Genealogies are extremely important in Jewish history for a great number of reasons. There is thought that while Matthew, in writing to Jews, traces Jesus’ genealogy beginning with Abraham through David through Solomon to show Joseph’s legal line. Luke, who has more to say about Mary than the other gospel writers, traces her genealogy all the way back to Adam through David through Nathan to show that the gospel is for gentiles as well and that she also is in the Messianic line. Mary’s lineage comes through Solomon’s brother Nathan’s line. Hence, while Joseph was Jesus’ legal and earthly father, he was not in Jesus’ bloodline, God was the source of Jesus bloodline. Mary supplied the humanity and God supplied the divinity in the infant God-man born to the virgin mother.

     One other passing thing to note. God had cursed the bloodline of a descendant of Solomon, Jeconiah, stating that no descendant of his would ever be king (Jer. 22:30). Joseph was of that lineage, in other words, no descendent of Joseph would ever be a king, further confirming he was not the father of Jesus. The bloodline of Jesus was divine in its origin traced through Mary (Nathan) thereby making the shedding of his blood on the cross efficacious on our behalf. (A baby’s blood and blood circulation is completely different from its mother’s. They have their own blood type.) It truly was royal sinless blood having been created by God, not Mary. The wonder of the Incarnation―which we’ll explore in some depth in the coming days.

Music: “Long Ago, Prophets Knew” Chet Valley Churches  


O Lord God, enlarge our soils with a divine charity, that we may hope all things, endure all things; and become messengers of Thy healing mercy to the grievances and infirmities of men. In all things attune our hearts to the holiness and harmony of Thy kingdom. And hasten the time when Thy kingdom shall come, and Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.   

                          ―James Martineau, from Prayers Ancient and Modern, p.356

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