Advent: December 25

Gospel: Luke 1:26–38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “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.”

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

And the angel answered her, “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.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (ESV)

The Dark Side of Christmas #2

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin . . . Mary” (Luke 1:26–27).

As we consider again the dark side themes in the Christmas story, these two verses link two more themes we may not think about as part of Christmas, infertility and out-of-wedlock pregnancy.

The sixth month has to do with Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Gabriel (“God’s strong one”) informs Mary that she will conceive and bear the Son of the Most High, without a human father. The time stamp of this story relates it to the previous story, which is in the context of infertility.

One couple desiring a child for years. Praying. Serving God with all their hearts. Upright. Finally, God answers their prayers, which Zechariah has long since given up on, evidenced by his initial unbelief. The pain of living with infertility was even more acute in Jewish first-century society. No heir, no security net. Where is the sign of God’s blessing? Couples today can feel with Elizabeth and Zechariah in their decades-long grief.

The other couple is planning a marriage, until Mary is “found to be with child.” Quite naturally she has questions. What do you mean by this greeting? How is this possible? Similarly, Matthew 1 records Joseph’s struggle with learning Mary is pregnant. Many think that some of the side remarks about Jesus in the Gospels are slurs regarding His less-than-acceptable beginning (see Mark 6:3; John 8:41, 9:29). Pregnancy before marriage, while certainly not uncommon today, is still a stain on the lives of the faithful.

But God’s story embraces all these. Add the poor, the ostracized, the homeless, and the refugee and the good news takes on a whole new glow. Gabriel’s reminder that “nothing will be impossible with God” is especially good news to those who live in the context of never quite measuring up (see Jeremiah 32:17).

So as we sing the carols, open gifts, and celebrate Jesus’s coming, let’s take some time to reflect on those who often feel excluded. Those who know their need for THE Savior are the very ones whom God welcomes and to whom He proclaimed the first good news.

As songwriter Mark Harris says, “This is such a strange way to save the world.”

Whom does God deem worthy of receiving the good news? Discuss this question with another. List one way in which your attitude and actions might more clearly reflect that good news. Give God praise for His “strange ways.”

Randy Jaspers – Northern Plains Regional Minister