I pray that this Christmas will be a blessing to you. For many of us it will be bittersweet. We have all lost friends and loved ones over the last couple of years. Many are experiencing financial turmoil. I serve the homeless, as you know, and the homeless are always in need of miracles. We need to remember that God is in the miracle business. Christmastime is all about miracles. In fact, Jesus Christ is a miracle. Let us continue to believe in and pray for miracles this Christmas.
The Jesus that was born in Bethlehem came as the Messiah, the Deliverer, Savior and King of kings. However, he did not come as royalty from heaven. He did not come as a conquering King (which was what the Jews were anticipating). He will return as the conquering King of kings, but that time has not yet come. No, Jesus came as a little baby to serve and die for mankind. His beginning was one of humble origins. Today we will continue our look forward to the birth of Christ. We'll pick up in Luke, Zechariah, Elizabeth, and John, which leads into Mary's story.
God has been busy. Zechariah and Elizabeth were with child. This was not a normal pregnancy, because Elizabeth was 88 years old.
Allow me to digress here. I was called Zechariah and Kristi was called Elizabeth back in the winter of 2003-04. Kristi was pregnant with our daughter Emma. Kristi was 46 years old at the time. About half the age of Elizabeth, so we can empathize, somewhat, with what Elizabeth and Zechariah are going through here. Shock and surprise, fear and joy, and personally for me, confusion.
Different from us, of course, Elizabeth had been barren her whole life. Now at 88, she was pregnant. While serving God in the Most Holy Place as priest, Zechariah was visited by an angel. Luke 1:11-15,
“Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and gripped with fear. But the angel said to him ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.’”
Now, fast forward six months, and the angel Gabriel was again busy doing God’s work. Luke 1:26-27,
“In the six month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’”
God had sent Gabriel to Nazareth, a rinky dink kind of town that was never even mentioned in the Old Testament. But it was just the town of choice for God and the humble origins of his son. Think back to Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 53:2, “He grew up before him like a tender shoot and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” The son of God was born of humble beginnings, in a rinky dink small town, given birth to by a teenage mother who was not married, and betrothed to an older man. However, this older man, Joseph, was from the lineage of David. This is important because it does match up with Isaiah’s prophecy. But there is also another reason I believe. Because it also teaches us that David’s lineage is not so pristine, in fact you could say that it too, is of humble origin. We understand that the Messiah is foretold to come from the line of David. In chapter 3 of Luke, Mary’s lineage is given. Her lineage, as well as Joseph's lineage can both be traced to David’s lineage. This is to fulfill prophecy, but not to prove royalty. It is to prove humility. It is to emphasize Jesus' humble beginnings. It is unusual to list Mary’s genealogy here in the New Testament, it is noteworthy in that it is even in the New Testament at all. Joseph’s lineage (contained in Matthew 1) lists four women: Tamar, Ruth, Rahab, and Bathsheba. These must have been special women right? Not at all. Ruth and Rahab were Gentiles (a despised people at the time). Bathsheba was an adulteress who the Bible calls “Solomon's mother, who had been Uriah’s wife”. Then there is Tamar who was also a woman of questionable character. Let us not forget that King David himself was also an peeping Tom, an adulterer and a murderer. The point I’m making here is not to throw shade at Jesus, but to emphasize the fact that God desired these humble origins for his son. It was all part of his plan. God is emphasizing Jesus’ humility, not his loyalty. We left off with the angel Gabriel surprising little Mary, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” This would startle any of us. Mary was nothing special, just a young teenager, probably 13-14. Luke 1:29-31, “Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.” This verse does tell us something special about Mary though. She had to be full of love and faithfulness. But how do we know this? Because Gabriel had told her that she had found favor with God. In the book of Proverbs 3:3-4, God’s Word instructs us how to find favor with God and man. “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.” We find favor with God and man by loving God and others, all while remaining faithful to God. This is a spiritual truth. Mary, like Zechariah and Elizabeth, was going to hear the whispers from her neighbors. They would be gossiping about her pregnancy, assuming and accusing that it was out of wedlock. So much so, that Joseph would even contemplate leaving her. This was going to be a stressful time for Mary. In fact, it could not have been easy being Jesus’ mother, eventually watching him die, executed as a criminal. Gabriel used the word favored. Is this a favored life? How did she survive this emotional turmoil of being the mother of God’s son? She survived by love and faith, that’s how. Luke 1:32-33, Gabriel continues, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” Out of humble beginnings, with a troubled lineage, from a cruddy hometown that was a synonym for being despised, born of questionable circumstances, all indicating more a curse from God, as opposed to the true favor of God, out of all of this confusion and chaos comes the Messiah. None of us, in our right minds, would choose to raise our children from such circumstances. Ahhh, but you and I are not God. We do not think like God. The miracle that is Jesus Christ is more and more a miracle the more you investigate his origins in the Bible. Out of these humble origins comes the Redeemer for all of mankind. We too often doubt the reality of miracles. This leads us to falsely think that God is only going to use those who are perfect, with spotless records and from good families. This is just not the case. None of us have spotless histories or genealogies. God chose to bring his Son into the world through a line of misfits and sinners. Just like my family. Just like our families. God wanted us to be able to identify with his Son, and we can. Satan wants us looking back at our sin with shame, focusing on our past, all the while stealing our future. God wants us to forget our past (just like he has already done), and instead focus on Jesus and our future with him. I’d call this a miracle, wouldn’t you? Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God. Blessings, Thad Brown Opportunity House And Harmony UMC