As the holiday season is in full swing, many are preparing for family gatherings, office parties, and special events with friends. We tend to focus our time and attention on decorating and shopping. We want each year to be better than the one before. So, gifts are one-upped from the year before. Decorations are one-upped from the year before. And lest we forget one of the most important things...food is one-upped from the year before!
While all the activities of this time of year bring smiles to peoples’ faces, we must always remember the true source of joy. God loved us so much that he willingly sent his son to the earth, to live among his creation, to live as a servant, to die, not for his own sin, but for the sins of humanity. This sacrifice brings hope, peace, and joy.
It must have been a strange experience for Mary. The Bible explains that God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee. He sent Gabriel to share with Mary the good news of the events that would take place through the next nine months. The first words from the angel to Mary were, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28). Mary was troubled by this greeting and wondered what it meant. The angel went on to share these words,
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:30-33).
Mary asked the angel how these things would happen. Gabriel responded with an answer that evoked confidence and courage in Mary.
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:35-37).
These words of Gabriel prompted Mary to commit herself to being used by God. She states clearly her intent to be the servant of the Lord. Though strange and a bit terrifying, she understood the importance of this moment. She understood the seriousness of this moment. She understood the call of God in this moment, and she allowed God to use her as the avenue through which his redemptive work would be realized.
After the birth of Jesus, it was the angel of the Lord that appeared to the shepherds and said, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). And what was that great joy? A Savior is born! The Messiah! And the process of redemption and salvation is made available through his coming. Because he came, because he lived, because he died, and because he lives again, we have the hope of eternal life! What joy that brings!