Sermon delivered at Grace Presbyterian Church, December 17, 2000

The Greatest Turning Point!
by Pastor Bob Burridge 2000
Luke 1:26-38

Life is filled with turning points.
We all have events that have turned our whole direction around. Things changed in my life when I was 16. That was when my family left Buffalo to move to Florida. But the most central change was the day the Lord gave life to my heart and implanted faith in Jesus Christ. That was when I was 18.

Yet there were other very important moments too: There was the day I married Lois, the birth of each of our children, and the day a tornado ripped our house apart.

You've all had turning points in your lives.
Sometimes its a tragedy, sometimes a special decision, a kindness someone does for you, or an accomplishment you've made.

There are some events where the influence wasn't noticed at the time, but looking back you see that if things had gone differently your life would be different today.

The history of the whole world has turned
upon great moments and events.

We might think of the fall of Rome, the American revolution, or the changes in Europe after the two World Wars. There have been course changing inventions such as the printing press, electrical power, the broadcast medium, and the internet. There have been advancements such as industrialization, the discovery of penicillin, the signing of the Magna Charta, or the process of landing men on the moon.

Sometimes seemingly little decisions have had enormous effects: such as the nailing of 95 theses for debate on the Castle Church in Wittenberg in 1517, or President Lincoln's choice to attend a stage play at the Ford Theater, or Kennedy's preference to ride in an open limousine one day in Dallas.

But its beyond debate that there was one event that has had a most significant effect than them all -- the birth of Jesus was the greatest turning point in the unfolding of history.

It began to be realized in a series of unnoticed events that happened to a humble family in Galilee. It was in that way that God's promise was turned into fulfillment. The longed for spiritual hope took on the clothing of physical reality.

Its first touch was felt by the world in the visit of an angel to a young girl named Mary:

Luke 1
26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee, called Nazareth,
27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.

This wasn't the sixth month of some calendar year.
We have no idea what time of the year it was. And we have no way of knowing for sure the date when Jesus was born.

There have been many detailed and complicated theories trying to figure this out. Some are based on when shepherds would have been out in the fields around Bethlehem. Others are based on the travels of the wise men from the East. Some even try to guess based on the appearance of the star of Bethlehem. But to do that the biblical account has to be changed to make it fit with astronomical theories. Guesses about conjoined planets or a supernova disagree with the descriptions in the Bible, and assume that errors are part of the biblical record.

Every one of the theories about Jesus' birth has as many problems as it gives answers. God doesn't tell us the day or month of his birth.

Christmas was set on December 25th as an arbitrary date. It was not based on a study of Scripture. And there is no other first hand record. It was probably decided to fit in with pagan holiday celebrations of the winter solstice. But December 25th is as good a date as any to remember the incarnation of our Lord.

Luke had just been telling about the promise of the birth of a baby named John to Elizabeth and Zecharias the high priest.

In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy:
An angel from God brought another message. The spirit messenger's name was Gabriel. He was sent from God to a small city in Galilee, called Nazareth.

He came to a young girl named Mary.
We know she was a covenant child of Israel, a Jew. Judging from the age when marriage usually took place then, she may have been about 13 years old.

It says she was a virgin. The Greek word is parthenos. We see from what follows that it means she had not been with a man intimately.

But she was betrothed
That's not quite like being engaged today. At betrothal, a couple takes solemn vows which are witnessed usually in a ceremony. They pledge to be faithful to one another for the rest of their lives, and to one day live as one flesh joined by the law of God.

The promises made are more similar to marriage vows today. During the betrothal, sexual infidelity was considered the same as the crime of adultery. A betrothal could only be ended by a formal divorce, which was not sanctioned by God.

But unlike our marriage ceremony, the couple didn't begin living together afterward. The union was not consummated yet. When it came time for the two to begin living as a married couple, the bridegroom would come for the bride and often in a procession and with a celebration take her to be his wife. It was then that they consummated their union.

When the angel came to Mary, she and Joseph were betrothed, but had not yet come together in marriage.

It appears that both Mary and Joseph
were descendants of the line of David.

There were many descendants of David then. Thousands of Jews spread out all over Israel could trace their line to that ancient king. There was no royalty and no riches they could lay claim to then. The kingship had ended many centuries ago.

Joseph was a simple carpenter living in a simple town nestled on a hill far from Jerusalem. This was not the family of a learned rabbi, or a diplomat, or statesman. What an amazing beginning! Such was the first touch of the Messiah's promised coming.

The angel gave a startling greeting to this young Jewish girl:

Luke 1
28 And coming in, he said to her, "Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you."
29 But she was greatly troubled at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this might be.

The angel came in, presumably into her home. He greeted her with the common word khaire. The word "Hail" is a poor translation for today. It was used when people met. Its like our "Hello" or "Its good to see you."

But then he added some more unusual words ... He called her favored one. And he announced that the Lord was with her, obviously in some special way.

We don't have the details. But imagine a young girl busy about her home in Nazareth. It seems she was alone and probably her mind on usual things going about the chores of a usual day.

Then someone entered into her home. We don't know if she recognized that it was a spirit messenger in human form. But what he said was most unusual, and he gave her such an honored title!

She was greatly troubled at this statement. Notice that it wasn't the visitor or his coming that troubled her. It was what was said! The language implies that she was going back and forth in her mind trying to figure out what this greeting meant?

Then Gabriel continued ...

Luke 1
30 And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.
31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.

The angel immediately dealt with Mary's fears He called her by name, and repeated that she had found favor with God.

The favor of God is always an amazing bestowal: to Mary, to every child of God. But the details that were to follow were even more amazing. She was to become pregnant with a son! Nothing miraculous was mentioned just yet. The angel had just begun to amaze her!

Then the angel immediately gave details about who this child was to be: His name was to be Jesus. The name wasn't explained to her at this time. The name in Greek is Iaesou. But this is Luke's translation. The Aramaic or Hebrew name the angel spoke was Yeshu'a, short for Yehoshu'a. It literally means Yahveh (or Jehovah) saves or helps.

It was a common name among Jews. History shows there were others at that time named Jesus. There are even others by that name in the Bible.

Shortly after this the angel appeared to Joseph and explained the significance of the name to him:

Matthew 1:21
"And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins."

Then the messenger of God explained the unique character of Jesus ...

Luke 1
32 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 father David;
33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end. "

He will be great:
This child will not simply grow up to be another citizen of Nazareth. He is destined for greatness. And not just the kind of greatness known to any other human in all of history.

He will be called Son of the Most High:
This was an astounding title! Others are called sons of the Most High God too. But the expanding information of the angel spirals upward to amazing heights. This was obviously a special title unlike the normal honor every covenant child bears. Otherwise the angel wouldn't have said it as he did.

And he will reign forever in the kingly office promised to David:
This was the peak of the mountain of information Mary was hearing! The lost and suppressed kingship of David's throne was to be revived in her son! The longed for promise would be fulfilled!

Every Jew knew the words the angel referred to: The prophet Nathan said long ago to the great King David, in

2 Samuel 7:12-13
12 When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom.
13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

Then in verse 16 Nathan concluded the promise to David ...

16 And your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.

Imagine all this racing through the mind of this young girl!
She was to become pregnant and her son would be called Jesus. And he will specially be Son of the Most High. And the kingly line of the ancient King David will be restored in him! And he will reign, not for a mere life time, but forever over God's covenant people!

She knew these teachings! It was the longed for promise of the Messiah. But did she comprehend that he was not just to be an earthly king as David was. He would be the seed of a woman promised to Eve at the gates of Eden! The one who would crush the head of the serpent and be the lamb of God the one foreshadowed by all the generations of sacrifices and miracles fulfilling the amazing prophecies she had learned as she was growing up.

But Mary had a very practical question:

Luke 1
34 And Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?"

Literally her question was: "How is this, since I know no man?"

Her question was certainly justified!
She had not yet had intimate relations with a man. She was a virgin. She and Joseph had been morally pure and waited for their final union in marriage. How could she become pregnant and fulfill this promise?

There is no indication of any lack of belief of what the angel said.
But how should she become pregnant? What will be the means God would use? Was she to move up the marriage date with Joseph? Should it be immediate?

We should notice that there is absolutely no foundation to the Roman Catholic claim that Mary had taken a perpetual vow of virginity. If she had, then her betrothal vows to Joseph were a sin. The vows included the promise to be married and consummate the marriage faithfully.

The Angel continued:

Luke 1
35 And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God.

The method of her pregnancy was graciously explained:
There would be a supernatural intervention of God! The Holy Spirit was to come upon her in some way. The power of the Most High was going to overshadow her. We are fools to try to explain this in biological terms.

Somehow, God would cause a baby to come to life in her. He would be a true descendent of David and derive at least some of his genetic pattern from Mary.

But this would be a male child! There was genetic information Mary didn't already carry. It would truly be God assuming human flesh!

This has of course been rejected by non-Christians.
They must try to explain this supernatural conception away as a myth. So they guess that Mary must have become pregnant immorally by Joseph, or some other man. Some even suggest that she had sex with a Roman soldier. They dare to say that this whole story was fabricated to cover up what really happened.

But there are problems with such unbelief. What kind of story would this be? Who would be expected to believed such a thing? Pregnant girls may say they were raped or admit their sin, but to say an angel came and God caused her pregnancy? Its unlikely the people of Nazareth would be so naive. There were other miraculous confirmations clearly recorded in the Bible. This was no made up story by a couple of immoral teens in Galilee.

Unbelievers begin by presuming they can absolutely rule out anything they don't understand. They assume that nothing beyond the natural is possible. Yet their theories and stories have no foundation in any evidence at all. They are only based on presumptions of comprehensive knowledge of all possibilities. Such arrogance betrays the blindness of the unregenerate heart.

The biblical record makes it clear that this was a supernatural conception.

Jesus was the holy offspring of God.
And so in that special sense, he shall be called the Son of God.

But the angel gave evidence too:

Luke 1
36 And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God."

Mary would witness proof that God was at work in a special way.
Her relative Elizabeth, a barren woman past the age of child bearing, was pregnant too! She was already six months pregnant with her child. This could be checked out and confirmed. Let it be known that nothing will be impossible with God.

What an amazing crescendo of information!
Mary had been told she was specially favored by God. She would become pregnant with a son who would be the promised Messiah. He will reign over the house of David forever. And it will come about not through a normal conception with Joseph. It would be a once in history event -- a miraculous virgin birth. God the Holy Spirit would do the conceiving!

With all this shocking news, Mary showed humble submission to her Lord:

Luke 1
38 And Mary said, "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

What a humble servant this young girl was!
Mary was not the sinless girl the Roman church has elevates her to be. She later admits her need for a Savior. So she must have understood her sin.

She was certainly not a divine intercessor.
Scripture tells us to pray to God only, through Jesus Christ only. Its forbidden to pray through any other creature. We should not pray to or through Mary, or any saint and never to an angel. Such Satanic deceptions offend God and violate his holy law.

However, Mary was a humble and blessed woman chosen by God's grace. She is a worthy example for all who serve him.

This was certainly a turning point event in her life!
Nothing would ever be the same for her after this. What an unusual moment it must have been! It was beyond the dreams of any Jewish girl in Nazareth -- in any place at any time.

And her son -- who is he to us today?
Jesus remains the Son of the Most High, King forever reigning in a kingdom not of this earth. He is the holy offspring promised in Eden and the Lamb sacrificed on Calvary. His coming marked the greatest moment, the greatest turning point in all of history. And today, when he comes into a life, he brings about a revolutionary change there too.

Christmas Day may not be his actual birthdate. But its a wonderful opportunity. Then and always we can declare him to others, and be reminded ourselves, the promised kingdom of David continues beyond the palaces of this earth. We have a Sovereign Lord and Savior who changes lives. He is the hope of all the ages and of all the wise.

Tell those you meet at this season and always, about the hope God promises us in Jesus Christ.

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