Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Annunciation of Our Lord

March 25, 2020

Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 1856
Luke 1:26-38 (ESV)
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “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.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 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. 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. For nothing will be impossible with God.” 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.

The Annunciation is celebrated on March 25, nine months before Christmas Day. It is interesting that this festival usually falls during Lent (in 2035, it will fall on Easter Sunday!). In 2016 it fell on Good Friday. This was particularly fitting. Why did God's Son become incarnate of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit? So He could die! As we sing in What Child Is This?, "Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, the cross be borne for me, for you!"

Since the time of the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century, it has been commonly thought that the Virgin Birth and other miracles in the Bible could not have happened since they contradict laws of nature or human reason. Some people have attempted to retain the Christian faith while embracing such modernistic ideas, but at great harm to themselves and the Church. There are several reasons that we must confess the Virgin Birth clearly. The first reason is that God’s Word, the Bible, confesses it. Isaiah 7:14 specifically says that the Messiah will be born of a virgin, and this verse is quoted in Matthew 1:23. Matthew 1:25 makes it clear that Joseph and Mary did not have sexual intercourse until she had given birth, and Luke 1:26-38 testifies that Mary was a virgin when she conceived. The second reason we must maintain the Virgin Birth is that, if Jesus had had a human father, He would have been born with sin, but since He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, He could be born sinless. Only by virtue of the fact that He is the Son of God is He sinless, and able to save us from our sins. Only by becoming like us in every way but without sin could He offer the perfect sacrifice to God to atone for the sin of the whole world.

Christian mysteries such as the Trinity, Incarnation, and Universal Atonement seem impossible, but as Gabriel says to Mary, “Nothing will be impossible with God.” However, this verse could be misused by Christians who say things like, “If you just believe enough, God will heal your cancer, since nothing is impossible for Him.” While it is true that God can still perform miracles of healing, He has not always promised to do so. The statement of Gabriel applies to God’s ability to make Elizabeth fertile in her old age, and Mary pregnant without relations with a man. We should apply this verse today when people cast doubt on God’s ability to perform the things the Bible claims He can do, such as create out of nothing, forgive sins through His Word, save people through Baptism, make Jesus’ body and blood present in, with, and under bread and wine, take the souls of Christians to heaven at their death, and finally raise us from the dead on the Last Day!

Prayer: O Lord, as we have known the incarnation of Your Son Jesus Christ by the message of the angel to the Virgin Mary, so by the message of His cross and passion bring us to the glory of His resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Please also pray for: Lynn Cottle, in Austin Heart Hospital (no visitors allowed, not even her husband Joe); Bessie Mahaffey and Alma Gause under hospice care.

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