The Sermon for Sunday, December 24th, 2023, the Fourth Sunday in Advent
The Lessons: Psalm 132:8-19; 2 Samuel 7:1-17; Luke 1:26-38
The Text: Luke 1:26-38
Bible teacher A.T. Pierson tells of a new convert to Christ who had a strange dream in which he was trapped down a very steep well in the night. He looked up and saw a single star shining above him, and it seemed to let down lines of silver light that took hold of him and lifted him up. Then he looked down, and he began to go down. He looked up, and began to go up; he looked down, and began to go down again. He found that by simply keeping his eye on that star, he rose out of the well until his foot stood on the firm ground.
The dream was a parable, said Dr. Pierson. “Get your eyes off yourself and on your Savior, get them off your disease and on your Physician…Here and now, turn your eyes to the Lord Jesus.”
In our First Lesson today, King David was turning his attention to the Lord when he voiced his concern to the prophet Nathan that while he, the king of Israel, lived in a house of cedar, the ark of the covenant was housed in a tent. The word of the Lord came to Nathan the prophet after he had mistakenly told King David to proceed to build a house for God, and God’s message was basically that God does not need to live in houses made by human beings and had never given direction to any or the leaders of Israel to build him a house. God reminded King David of all that He had done for him, and he predicted that David’s son would build him an house (the first Temple of Jerusalem), and that God would establish King David’s house, or dynasty, forever.
Now King David had really voiced a fundamental, deep-rooted longing in mankind, the longing for God to live among us. God gave king David an answer that set his thinking in order. It is not that anyone can build a house good enough for God to live in, nor does He need to live in such a house, but what people really need is for God to live in them and to direct their lives according to his purposes.
The prediction of God living with his people is also expressed in Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (KJV).
LUKE 1:26-38: THE ANGEL’S PROPHECY OF IMMANUEL
About a millennium after King David ruled, the Angel Gabriel was sent by God to the Blessed Virgin Mary to foretell the birth of Jesus, which inaugurated God’s coming to mankind and living in them. The birth of the Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled God’s promise to live in and among us. Remember that Jesus thought of his own body as God’s Temple, for he said, “I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days” (Matthew 26:61, KJV), according to two witnesses who falsely accused him at his trial, witnesses who assumed that the temple of which he spoke was the temple standing at that time in Jerusalem, whereas, in fact, the temple to which he referred was his own body, which God raised to life on the third day.
The Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary began with a greeting that troubled Mary, as she did not understand what it meant at the time. She was a young virgin betrothed to Joseph, who was descended from King David. The Angel Gabriel’s greeting was a surprising one. How could she be “highly-favoured” and “blessed among women” (Luke 1:28b, KJV)? The angel tells her not to be afraid, since probably the sight of the angel as well as the mystery of his words could have caused her to be afraid. Very much later, just the appearance of an angel at the tomb of Jesus to roll away the stone from the entrance caused the guards at the tomb to shake with fear and become like dead men (Matthew 28:4). That angel’s face was like lightning and his clothing as white as snow (Matthew 28:3). That angel had to calm the women disciples who were looking for Jesus by saying, “Don’t be afraid.” Here, too, the angel speaks words of calm, telling her not to fear, since she had found favor with God (Luke 1:30). Then the Angel Gabriel gave her the astounding prediction that she would conceive and bear a son and call his name Jesus (Luke 2:31). This prediction was amazing since the Jewish covenant of betrothal meant that Mary and Joseph were formally engaged to be married, but no sexual relations were permitted during the time of betrothal before marriage. Not only would she bear Jesus, but he would be great, and be called the Son of the Most High, that is, Son of God, and the Lord God would give him the throne of his ancestor, King David, and his rule over Israel would be everlasting, and his kingdom without end (Luke 1:32-33). Now all this was absolutely wonderful news to May, but how was it to happen since she had no sexual relations with any man? The angel’s answer makes it clear that the Holy Spirit will cause a miraculous conception and birth, which is why the holy child will be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35).
To show that he knows how overwhelming and amazing this good news is, the Angel Gabriel tells her that her kinswoman Elizabeth has conceived a child in her old age and is already six months pregnant. Then he adds the telling words, “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37). What the Greek text really means here is that there is no word spoken by God which shall prove impossible. After this, St. Mary gives the answer of faith, showing she believes exactly what the angel has predicted will come to pass: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38).
The Blessed Virgin Mary’s faithful acceptance of the Angel Gabriel’s prophetic prediction of our Lord’s conception and birth paved the way both for the salvation of mankind and God living in us through His Holy Spirit, whom God poured out on the gathered Church at Pentecost. Like Mary, will you faithfully believe and accept God’s will for your life and every word that he has given you and will give you?
 Quoted on p.488, Robert J. Morgan: Preacher’s Sourcebook of Creative Sermon Illustrations. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007.