Have you ever seen, witnessed, or experienced a miracle before? When I say miracle, I mean a full-blown, only Jesus could do this, miracle. Chances are, you probably haven’t. There once was a TV evangelist who was a miracle worker. He would bring people up on stage and heal them of their various maladies or infirmities, freeing those individuals from pain or suffering some sort of physical problem. Everyone thought that he truly was a miracle worker. However, it was later revealed that it was all an act, that those individuals who came forward were indeed healthy. He was proven to be a con-artist and there were no miracles.
When we read our Gospel for today, we see a modern-day miracle occur: a virgin is impregnated by the Holy Spirit. Here, in a little town called Nazareth, an angel of the Lord came to a virgin to tell her she was to be the mother of God’s Son.
Nazareth was a small town, north of Jerusalem and west of the Sea of Galilee. In a sense, there isn’t anything fascinating about Nazareth. St. John tells us of a discussion between Nathanael and Philip when they are called by Jesus to be disciples: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Obviously the locals did not care much for the town. As far as the general public was concerned, it was impossible for anything to come out of Nazareth. Philip answered, “Come and see.” It is here in Nazareth where the angel Gabriel came to a virgin named Mary. Gabriel said to her, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” O favored one? Really? Mary must be asking herself what makes her so special. She is simply a young woman. There are many women in Nazareth so why is this angel coming to her? Imagine the reaction if Mary were to go next door and told someone that she saw an angel. They would say that it was impossible, yet it was an act of God’s desiring.
However, for Mary, Luke says she was “greatly troubled at the saying, and she tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.” Doubt is going on in Mary’s mind. First an angel appeared to her. Angels don’t make everyday appearances, especially to someone as lowly as Mary. All that she knew was that she was favored and the Lord was with her. But why her? What made her any more special than any other young woman? What could the Lord have in store for this young woman from Nazareth?
Gabriel tells Mary that she will conceive in her womb and bear a son, “the Son of the Most High.” She will be the God-bearer, the one who will give birth to the Savior of the world. The miracle of miracles was to happen to Mary, to this unassuming girl from Nazareth: from her would come the Son of God, the One sent to redeem all from their sins. From Mary would come the Christ, who would put our sins on Himself and be the sin sacrifice for us all. All of this was done to fulfill what the prophet Isaiah had written, “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
By virtue of His virgin birth, Jesus shared in our humanity, but not our sinfulness. Such a perfect, Holy Savior was necessary. It was this Savior who kept the law perfectly in our place and offered Himself as the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
In this miracle, we already see our salvation at work. After all, the Bible tells us that Mary, like all human beings, was born in sin. Like all human beings, she deserved eternal punishment. The Holiness of God in her womb should have destroyed her sin and her along with it, but it did not. Instead, God came to be with her to bless her. The Holy Son of God had taken up His human flesh inside of her. He had already taken His first step on the road to the cross. The salvation He earned on the cross as both God and Man was already at work protecting Mary from the condemnation she deserved because of her sin.
Here we once again see God at work to come to us – to be with us – not in condemnation, but in grace. Here we see that the same grace of God that allowed Mary to be the Mother of God is also available to us so that we can be the children of God. The Son of God who took up His humanity in the womb of the Virgin Mary also comes to us. He is with us.
The Lord Jesus came into this world for you. On Christmas, we will celebrate the fact that God and man come together in one person – Jesus the Christ, the Son of Mary, the Savior of the world. His conception by the Holy Spirit and His birth of the Virgin are the beginning of His journey to save us. During His journey, He will live a life without sin, He will teach and heal, He will suffer, die, and be buried. He will rise and ascend back to His Father in Heaven. He will do all this so that He could come to us without punishing us for our sin. He will do all this so He could be with us and we could be His favored people.
If you were Mary, all of this would have probably been hard to take in, yet Luke leaves us with a few words of Mary: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” As far-fetched as this might have been to Mary, she believed. She believed in the words of the angel Gabriel as the words of God Himself. Mary’s faithful response is clear evidence of God’s grace in her life. Her God-given faith allows her to accept the angel’s message without question and humbly place herself in the Lord’s service. The final miracle has happened: a miracle accepted by faith. Our human reason may not be able to comprehend the miracle of the virgin birth; but we accept it by faith, just as Mary did.
Gabriel uttered God’s message to Mary over two thousand years ago. The promise in those words has come to pass. The baby was born and Mary named Him Jesus just as Gabriel had said. Jesus kept all the promises that God had made. His life was perfect in every way. Never the less, even though His life was perfect, He suffered the cruelty of death on a cross. Because His death conquered sin, death could not hold Him and He rose from the dead just as He had promised.
Just like Mary, you are the recipient of a miracle. You have received the miracle of life and salvation in Jesus’ name, on account of Him and His sacrifice for you. You have received the gift of forgiveness of all of your sins. This miracle God caused to happen for you, for He has created you. It is by the Babe promised to a young woman named Mary that your miracle has happened: your sins are forgiven and you have been granted everlasting life. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.