The Nativity Story part 1:
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
December 3, 2006


Main Passage: Luke 1:26-35 (NLT)


[PowerPoint – TIME cover, Jan. 24, 1994)

Do you remember this? Do you remember the whole soap opera that surrounded Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding back in 1994? Just in case you’ve forgotten, or if somehow you escaped the gravitational pull of what became known as Skate-Gate, let me see if I can summarize it for you.

It was January 6, 1994, and the city of Detroit was gearing up for the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships. The favourite to win the Ladies’ competition was Nancy Kerrigan, who had also won in 1993. In fact, she was expected to go on to the Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway just a month later and challenge for gold there. But on that fateful day, as she was coming off the ice after a practice session, a man wielding a blunt object clubbed her in the knee. Nancy fell to the ground, grabbing her knee, while her attacker made his escape.

Well, I’m not going to go into all the details, but it was uncovered that her skating rival, Tonya Harding, and her husband were involved in the attack along with some other men, and the purpose was to put Tonya in a better position to win. Which, by the way, didn’t work. Nancy Kerrigan had to pull out of the Olympic Trials, but she recovered and the U.S. Figure Skating Association found a loophole that allowed them to add her to the Olympic team. Once there, Kerrigan captured the silver medal while Tonya Harding finished all the way down in 10th place. (Of course, if you were really paying attention, you know that Harding messed things up pretty bad for Canadian Josée Chouinard, too.)

So that’s just a quick summary of what happened. But do you remember what Nancy Kerrigan said just after the attack as she sat on the floor grasping her knee? She started to sob, “Why? Why? Why me?”

[PowerPoint – Sports Illustrated or Newsweek]

I think that’s a question we all ask ourselves from time to time. Occasionally, it’s when something bad happens to us, like it did to Nancy. But it’s not only when bad things happen that we ask, “Why me?” Sometimes we ask it when good things happen. Sometimes we ask it when we’re blessed in a way that we don’t feel we deserve. Sometimes we’re just overwhelmed with gratitude and can’t help but to ask, “Why? Why me?”

Have you ever experienced that?

Well, a couple thousand years ago there was a teenager who experienced this feeling first-hand. She was highly honoured by God, but was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the blessing. And she didn’t quite know how to handle it. Here… take a look…

[Video – “Why is it me?” scene from The Nativity Story]

Did you hear what she asked? “Why is it me God has asked? I am nothing.” That, of course, was a scene from The Nativity Story, with Mary talking with her relative Elizabeth. Mary was a virgin, yet she was chosen by God to become pregnant and become the mother of Jesus. God Himself would come to earth as a baby, and Mary would be His mother.

What a huge honour and a huge responsibility. It was overwhelming for her. “Why? Why me?” And throw in the fact that she was engaged and was expected to remain a virgin until she was married and, well, there were going to be complications. People wouldn’t believe her, people would judge her, her own parents and her own fiancée would possibly reject her, and under Jewish law she could even be executed by a stoning in the streets. Yeah. “Overwhelming” is a good word. “Why? Why me?”

Now, you’re not going to be called by God to become His mother. That calling was exclusively for Mary. But you will be called. In fact, God has already chosen you for a specific purpose or purposes. He has a will that is specifically for you.

Romans 12:2 (NLT)
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Okay? So God has a will for you. You have been chosen by God. Exactly what that means for you, I can’t tell you. I wish I could – I really do – but I can’t. That’s something that you have to work out between you and Him. But there are a few tips I can give you to help you discover what God’s will is for you. We’re not going to spend a lot of time on these… we actually talked about this last summer. So I just want to give them to you quickly…


Tips for Discovering God’s Will for My Life:

A. Allow God to transform me according to His will, values, and desires.

Just when you thought we were done with our Extreme Makeover series. But that verse we just looked at in Romans 12 talked about allowing God to transform you so that you can know His will. Because what He’ll do is this: He’ll place in you a hunger for His will. He’ll give you a passion to fulfill His will for you.

What else do I have to do to discover God’s will for me? I have to…


B. Get close to God and ask Him to show me His will.

Colossians 1:16 (Msg)
For everything, absolutely everything… everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him.

Go to the source. The closer you get to God… the more intimate your relationship becomes with Him… the clearer His direction for your life will become.


C. Discover how God has gifted me.

If God has a specific task for you, which He does, then He has also given you the gifts and abilities to accomplish it. He’s not going to set you up for failure.

Romans 12:5-6 (NLT)
We are all parts of his one body, and each of us has different work to do…
God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well.

And those “certain things” give us insight into what His will for us is.


Okay? We’ve talked about that before… how to discover God’s will for your life… and we’ll talk about it again sometime.

But the truth is, you probably already know God’s will… at least in specific situations. Oh, you might not yet know God’s overarching plan for you, but you know that there are times when God calls you to meet a specific need, or when He challenges you to take a stand for Him, or when He presents you with big opportunities which are also big responsibilities. If you are a follower of Christ, you’ve felt the prodding of the Holy Spirit in your life urging you to do God’s Will. And if it hasn’t happened yet, it will. As you live for God, He will call you for specific tasks. Some will be relatively minor, and others may require a great deal of you.

So what do you do in those times? Particularly when the task seems too big for you and the sacrifice seems too large, what do you do? How do you respond when God calls you?

Well, what I want to do for the rest of our time is this: I want to look at the example of Mary, and see how she responded when God chose her for an overwhelming purpose. How did she react? Can we do the same? And I want us to look at Mary as an example of how we should respond when God calls us. Okay? So in your notes…


How Do I Respond when God Calls Me?

1. Respond with Thankfulness.

This pregnancy was going to drastically change Mary's life. A lot of persecution and heartache and pain was in her future. But she didn't complain. She didn't gripe. She didn't mope. Instead of whining about the problems this would create in her life, Mary decided that she would be thankful.

Even when she realized that her life would never be the same and that she could in fact lose everything, she was still thankful that God had chosen her. And so she expressed it this way… she said…

Luke 1:46-47 (NLT)
“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!”

Because she realized that to be chosen by God is a great honour.

She could have become bitter. She could have been resentful. She could have felt like God was imposing on her life uninvited. But instead she chose to express gratitude that she could be so honoured to be chosen by God. She praised God with thankfulness.

You also have been chosen by God. Be thankful. He doesn’t call you just to keep you busy; He calls you to make a difference. He brings your life meaning. Be thankful.

In contrast, think about Moses and how he responded when God called him. Do you remember what happened? Moses had been a prince in Egypt, but had murdered someone and so was now living in exile, tending sheep. And one day, when he was up in the mountains, God spoke to him from a burning bush that wouldn’t burn up. And God called Moses to go back into Egypt and lead the Israelites out of slavery there.

How did Moses respond? Well, he didn’t say “Why me?” No, he said “Not me.” A world of difference. He was scared and he just didn’t want to do it. He wanted God to recruit someone else. But it was Moses that God had chosen, and eventually – reluctantly – Moses agreed. Not his shining moment.

That reminds me of a song that came out several years ago by Scott Wesley Brown. He wrote a song that was kind of a satire that said…

O Lord I'm your willing servant
You know that I have been for years
I'm here in this pew every Sunday and Wednesday
I've stained it with many a tear
I've given you years of my service
I've always given my best
And I've never asked you for anything much
So Lord I deserve this request

Please don't send me to Africa
I don't think I've got what it takes
I'm just a man, I'm not a tarzan
Don't like lions, or rivers, or snakes
I'll serve you here in suburbia
In my comfortable middle class life
But please don't send me out in the bush
Where the natives are restless at night

~ from Please Don't Send Me to Africa by Scott Wesley Brown

That was kind of Moses’ attitude. But Mary… Mary was willing to go anywhere and do anything that God requested of her. And she would do it willingly, thankful that God had chosen her.


2. Respond with Humility.

In that scene from the movie, Mary asked, “Why is it me? I am nothing?” Now, when you heard that, didn’t you just want to stand up and yell at the screen, “No Mary, you’re a somebody! You’re special. God chose you because you’re special!” Didn’t you just feel like shouting that? On behalf of everyone else here, let me just say “Thank you” for not doing that.

Why would Mary say, “I am nothing”? I mean, did she have an inferiority complex? Why would she say, “I am nothing?” Well, she actually said it because that’s what the screenwriter wrote into the script. What she really said was…

Luke 1:48 (NLT)
“For [God] took notice of his lowly servant girl…”

So why would she say that? Why would she refer to herself as a “lowly servant girl”? Because that’s what she was. She had no position of importance. She had no real influence. She wasn’t a community leader. She had performed no deeds of greatness. She was just a lowly servant girl. And that’s why she was so overwhelmed. That’s why she was so amazed that God had chosen her. She really was nothing by earthly standards, but yet God had chosen her and honoured her.

I suppose she could have thought, “It’s about time! I deserve this. I’ve lived a good life, I’ve tried to be as moral and pure as I could… of course God chose me. What other choice could there be?” I suppose she could have become all egotistical and proud like that, but she didn’t. Instead, she responded with humility.

You know, very few things annoy me as much as a believer who has been blessed by God in a certain way who uses that blessing as an excuse to become proud and boastful. You know, the people who come across as if God owes them something. When a church leader, or a pastor, or a high-profile believer starts to act like they’re superior, that’s such a turn off. They truth is, they don’t deserve to be chosen by God, and they don’t deserve the blessings of God. None of us do.

Remember that old Saturday Night Live thing – “I’m not worthy”? Well, none of us are. We could all say that. In fact, let’s do that. “I’m not worthy” on the count of three: 1, 2, 3… “I’m not worthy.”

Mary understood that. She knew she wasn’t worthy to be chosen by God for such an honour. And that’s why she responded with humility instead of pride. She recognized that no matter how good a life she could lead and no matter how much power she could achieve, it would be nothing compared to the surpassing greatness of God.

And when she realized that, there was really no option for her but to respond with humility. After all, God Himself was humbling Himself to become a man. And years later, the apostle Paul would reflect on this when he wrote…

Philippians 2:3-7 (NLT)
Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves… You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.

Jesus Himself was humble. Therefore, when we are called, we should respond humbly as well.


3. Respond with Obedience.

Our obedience to God must flow out of a heart that is completely His… a heart that honours Him and that is filled with love and compassion. A heart that seeks after His will.

I read a story a while back about a boy named Sammy. Sammy is riding along in the car with his mother. Sammy is in the backseat, and like many young boys, he’s restless. So he keeps taking off his seatbelt, standing up and leaning over the front seat. His mother keeps telling him, “Sammy sit down and put on your seatbelt.” Sammy doesn’t sit down. “Sammy, sit down and put on your seatbelt or we might get in an accident and you’ll get hurt.” Sammy still refuses to sit down. Finally, the mother reaches over the back seat and pushes him down and says, “Now stay there, or I’ll stop the car and spank you!” Sammy sat there with his arms crossed and a scowl on his face. After several minutes, Sammy declared, “I may be sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside.”

Well, it took a while, but Sammy finally got around to obeying his mother, at least on the outside. But he never really obeyed his mother on the inside. He never obeyed her from his heart.

But Mary did. Mary obeyed God from her heart. She willingly participated in God’s plan for her. In fact, when the angel Gabriel first came to here and told her that she was chosen to become pregnant and give birth to Jesus, what did she say?

Luke 1:38 (NLT)
“I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”

And it did.

Now, did Mary have reasons not to obey? Well, maybe. Let’s explore that. What reasons could she have had?

Well, she could have had other plans for her life. Maybe she was looking forward to getting married, having children with her husband, and living is a spacious home with a white picket fence and a two car garage. Maybe she even planned to join the PTA. I don’t know what her plans were, but I’m sure she had some.

But do you know what God says about that?

Isaiah 55:9 (NLT)
“For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

He says, “I know you have plans. But my plans for you are even greater.” And He even promises joy and peace and fullness of life if we put His plans first.

There have been several times in my own life when I’ve had to shelve my own plans in favour of God’s plans. And there have been some costs. But you know, I wouldn’t change that for anything. God’s ways are higher than my ways.

So maybe Mary had other plans, but she knew that God’s plans were better.

Or perhaps Mary was scared. We’re going to talk about this over the next couple weeks, but do you think Mary could have been afraid? I think so. I’m sure she was. But maybe she was reminded of when God said…

Isaiah 43:1-2 (NLT)
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”

Wow, that’s good to know, isn’t it? When you’re faced with a situation that causes fear to begin to well up within you, remember that verse. I’m sure Mary did.

Or do you think Mary might have felt like she wasn’t up to the task? That the calling was just too big for her? And you know, she’d be right to feel that way. And that’s where faith and trust come into play. Because God may call you to something that’s beyond yourself, but He will make up the difference. What did the angel tell Mary? Read it with me…

Luke 1:37 (NLT)
“For nothing is impossible with God.”

So I’m sure that Mary had reasons she could have used to not obey God’s calling, but she knew her reasons were really just excuses. And so she chose to obey regardless of the reasons not to.


My admonition for you this morning is this: Whatever God calls you to… whatever He has chosen you to do… do it with a heart of thankfulness, humility, and obedience. And sometimes that takes courage. But you can always trust that God has your best interests at heart. He will not call you to do something without giving you the ability to do it. And He will not call you to do something without there being a greater purpose behind it. You might not know what it is, but it’s there. When He chooses you, He chooses you for a purpose.

Let me ask you this: What if Mary had refused? I don’t really know if that was an option, but what if she could refuse and did refuse to go along with God’s plan? What would be different?

I suppose God would have found someone else. I suspect Mary wasn’t the only virgin in town. I sure hope not. I’m sure God could have worked something else out. But what would be different.

I think the biggest difference would be that Mary would have never fulfilled the primary thing that she was chosen for. She would have faded off into obscurity. We would have never heard of her, we certainly wouldn’t be talking about her here today. The biggest contribution of her life would have never been made.

So let me turn that to you and to me. What will be different if we refuse? What will be different for you if you reject God’s plan for your life? God has chosen you. He has chosen you to live for Him. He has chosen you to be His representative in this world. He has chosen you to make a difference. He has chosen you. In great and small ways, He has chosen you. Why would you ever want to refuse that?

Mary knew that it was a great honour. And so she willingly participated in God’s plan. And because of that, she knew that her life had meaning. And she expressed it this way…

Luke 1:48 (NLT)
“For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed.”

And she was right. 2000 years later we’re still talking about her.

What kind of legacy will you leave? Will you be remembered as someone chosen by God who willingly participated in His plan? If that’s the legacy you want to leave, then I’d invite you to pray along with me…

God, I’m available. Whatever you ask of me, I want to be willing to obey You. I trust your leadership in my life. And I’m thankful that You have chosen me. I know I’m not worthy, but I thank you for choosing me anyway. And I ask You to work Your perfect will out in and through my life. In Your name I pray, Amen.




Copyright © 2006