Notes for a sermon preached in the three congregations of the Anglican parish of Cavan, Ontario, Christmas 1974
by Robert Brow (

We like to send an announcement of the exact date and time and birth weight when our child is born. But no one would think of making the announcement nine months before. But if you want to understand the meaning of Christmas you need to read the announcement that was made to Mary, in this case by the Angel Gabriel.

"You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end " (Luke 1:30-33).

In this announcement Mary was given four distinct facts about the child that was to be born the first Christmas Day.

The first was that she was going to be pregnant. That was something that any girl dreaded before her wedding day. She was engaged to Joseph, but she knew the facts of life: girls don't get pregnant without having sexual intercourse with a man. But she was told "You will conceive in your womb and bear a son" (1:31). How could this happen to her? The answer was simple enough. "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you" (1:35). When we say the Nicene Creed we will say that "We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life." And we know that the Holy Spirit brooded upon the waters of creation (Genesis 1:2) and brought vegetable, and animal, and human life into being. But Mary was now asked to believe that the creative power of God would work the miracle of life in her womb.

Secondly the child in her womb would be "the Son of the Most High" (1:32). Mary knew that God had said "Let us make humankind in our image" (Genesis 1:26). She had never seen God the Father, but she had talked to him as a little child with her parents. And she knew that the Holy Spirit of God had empowered leaders and prophets, and given wisdom, throughout the Old Testament period. And she knew that God the Son was the Lord of Hosts who had appeared in person to Adam and Eve, and Abraham, and Moses. But she could not imagine that one day God the Father would speak from heaven at her son's baptism, and say "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17).

The third fact was equally astonishing. "The Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David" (1:32). Every young girl in those days wondered whether she might be chosen to be the mother of the Messiah. That might have been possible in Mary's case because the man she was engaged to was descended from the royal line of David. At the time of her betrothal she was shown the precious scroll of his family tree (the genealogy that is given in the first chapter of Matthew's Gospel). But if she was going to be pregnant before they got married he would certainly reject her as his bride. She could never have guessed how things would work out. He not only accepted her as his wife, but he took her to Bethlehem for the baby to be born there and have his name listed as his son in the genealogical records of that village. Nobody ever questioned the fact that Jesus had the legal right to the throne of David.

But what could she make of the fourth fact in the birth announcement given nine months before the first Christmas day? "He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end" (1:33). As Pilate himself recognized, and wrote as the title on Jesus's cross, her son would have the legal right to reign as king over the Jewish people. Most of his people rejected him as their king. "We have no king but Caesar" (John 19:5). But then after the day of Pentecost 3000 Jews realized their mistake, and began serving him. And then later another 5000 were added (Acts 2:41, 4:4), and many more became Christians through the preaching of Barnabas and Paul and other apostles. Jesus is still the rightful Messiah King of the people who call themselves Jews in our day. But hundreds of churches in every part of the world are meeting, as we do this Sunday, to worship him as King of kings and Lord of lords. Imagine what Mary would think if she came and joined in our service this morning.

Mary was given the announcement of the birth of her son nine months before the event. How does that concern us? We are told to honor our father and mother. Long before we knew what was going to happen they gave us our life. Among hundreds of fertilized ova in our mother's womb, we were preserved as Jesus was, to be born and find our place in this world. Every one of you could tell an astonishing story of your journey to this point in your life.

And when you came to believe in Jesus you found yourself as a child of God. "To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to believe in his name" (John 1:12). You too have run to God the Father as a little child, and he has welcomed you in his arms. And many of you could tell of how the Holy Spirit has empowered you and worked miracles in your life.

When Mary was called to fulfil her totally unexpected destiny, she said "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" (1:38).

PRAYER - In a moment of silent prayer, I would like you to review your very unexpected life. Then imagine how things might turn out for you in the future. Then look to Mary's son, and say "Jesus, let it be to me according to your word."

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