A Hollywood Christmas Part 1
Touched By an Angel
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
December 1, 2002

 

Are you familiar with oxymorons? An oxymoron is when you take two words that appear to be contradictory and put them together. Let me share a few with you…

  • Act naturally
  • Extra money
  • Rap music
  • Advanced BASIC
  • Found missing
  • Religious tolerance
  • Airline food
  • Freezer burn
  • Resident alien
  • Almost exactly
  • Genuine imitation
  • Safe sex
  • Alone together
  • Good grief
  • Same difference
  • Black light
  • Government organization
  • Sanitary landfill
  • British fashion
  • Jumbo Shrimp
  • Sense of Congress
  • Business ethics
  • Legally drunk
  • Silent scream
  • Butt head
  • Living dead
  • Small crowd
  • California culture
  • Marijuana initiative
  • Soft rock
  • Childproof
  • Microsoft Works
  • Software Documentation
  • Christian Scientists
  • Military intelligence
  • Sweet sorrow
  • Civil War
  • More perfect
  • Synthetic natural gas
  • Clearly misunderstood
  • New classic
  • Taped live
  • Computer jock
  • "Now, then ..."
  • Temporary tax increase
  • Computer security
  • Passive aggression
  • Terribly pleased
  • Definite maybe
  • Peace force
  • Tight slacks
  • Democratic Leadership
  • Plastic glasses
  • Twelve-ounce pound cake
  • Diet ice cream
  • Political science
  • Working vacation
  • Exact estimate
  • Pretty ugly
  • Friendly Fire
  • Silent Alarm
  • Short Meeting
  • Dodge Ram

 

The passage that Laurel read for us earlier introduces us to another oxymoron:

Pregnant Virgin

Those words just don’t seem to fit together. But that’s exactly what Mary was… a pregnant virgin.

She was the person God chose to give birth to Jesus, who was God in the flesh. She had never had sex, there was no Invetro Fertilization, but she would miraculously give birth to a son.

But that’s nothing new to us. We hear this every year at Christmas time. Jesus was born of a virgin, Mary. The fact is, we’ve probably heard it so often that the miracle of it eludes us. But when you stop to think about it, as I did as I was preparing this message, it can really strike you to recognize the incredible circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus.

In fact, imagine for a minute that you were Mary. I don’t know what Mary was doing at the time. Maybe she was praying, maybe she was peeling potatoes. I don’t know. But just imagine that you’re going through your day and all of a sudden an angel appears before you. Maybe you first heard the flutter of wings, maybe you saw a bright light, but however it happened you find yourself standing before an angel from God. What would you do? Would you run? Would you fall to the ground in fear? Would you stop, drop, and roll?

Mary didn’t run away, but the impression I get is that she was quite scared. In fact, the angel Gabriel has to tell her not to be frightened. Yeah, right. I’m sure that helped. Anyway, Gabriel goes on to tell her that even though she had never had sex she was going to have a son.

About this time, Mary was probably waiting to hear, “Smile, you’re on candid camera.” Just something to date myself a little. Actually, she probably would be relieved if that happened. But no, the angel was serious. Mary would become pregnant through the power of God and would give birth to Jesus.

All because God chose her. But what I want to talk about this morning is, why? Why did God choose Mary in the first place? I want to offer you four reasons.

 

Why Mary?

 

Sermon in a Sack (containers of citrus punch and pure orange juice)

(Let the people ask yes and no questions until they're able to conclude that I've got the orange juice in the bag.)

(Pull out the citrus punch) When you look at this, what do you think it is? It looks like orange juice. Actually, it's (reading label) “Sunny Delight: Florida Citrus Punch - Enriched Citrus Beverage. See back panel for nutrition information.” Okay, let's do that. “Contains 5% juice. Contains: water, high fructose corn syrup, concentrated orange juice, citric acid, and 0.5% or less of each of the following: concentrated tangerine juice, concentrated lime juice, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), beta carotene, thiamin hydrochloride (vitamin B1), natural flavors, food starch -modified, sodium citrate, cottonseed oil, propylene glycol alginate, xanthan gum, guar gum, brominated vegetable oil, sodium hexametaphosphate, potassium sorbate to protect flavor, yellow #5 and yellow #6.” Now what is that? What are yellows #'s 5 and 6? Folks, this is not my first choice for a drink. (Pull out my trusty Tropicana container.) I much prefer this. I love orange juice, and if I'm going to have some I want it to be this. “Tropicana: Premium Orange Juice -100% pure, Not from concentrate.” Orange juice is one of my favorite drinks. And when I go to the refrigerator to get a drink of orange juice, I want it to be this (Tropicana), not this (Sunny Delight).

What's the difference? One is pure, the other isn't. This Sunny Delight has gone through a lot of processing and has been mixed with so many other things that only 5% is real juice. I'd take the juice that 100% pure over the 5% any day.

God looks at us in much the same way. He is seeking those whose hearts are completely His. He wants people who are 100% pure before Him, not merely 5% pure. That's a quality that Mary exhibited in her life. She was pure before her Lord.

 

A. She was Pure in the sight of God. (v.27)

Luke 1:26-27 (NLT)
In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David.

Mary was a virgin. She was sexually pure before her Lord. And she was committed to remaining sexually pure by remaining a virgin until she was married.

But, you know, we can be made impure in many more ways than sexually. There are a variety of things that we can allow to be mixed into our lives that prevent God from being able to use us. A few of these things would be lust, jealousy, envy, bitterness, pride.... Essentially, we call it sin. It’s anything that we allow into our lives that comes between us and God. It’s the things that we do or don’t do that hurt Him. And when we allow sin to have a place in our lives we are impure in the sight of God.

I believe purity is the most important quality we can have that determines whether or not we can be of any use to God. You can highlight it, circle it, put a box around it, whatever you want to. But make sure you understand how important purity is in your life and how important it is to God.

 

B. She was favoured by God. (v.30)

I’m sure Mary wasn’t the only virgin in Israel. At least, I hope not. So why Mary? Why did God choose Mary? Well, I think partly it’s just that… He chose her. I think He could have chosen someone else. I think He had some other options. But He chose Mary.

Let's pick up the story at verse 28.

Luke 1:28-30 (NLT)
Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don't be frightened, Mary,” the angel told her, “for God has decided to bless you!”


If you were coaching a hockey team, and you needed to select a captain for the team, what qualities would you look for?

PARTICIPATION

(Possesses a good work ethic, relates well with the other players, is fairly skilled, has a good and practical understanding of the sport, it's plays and it's rules, is responsible and dependable, relates well with the public, has heart and passion, shows leadership ability.)

When the coach identifies the one person on the team who best exhibits those qualities, he chooses that person as the team captain. He has won the favor of the coach.

In the Old Testament, King David was favored by God. But he wasn't perfect. In fact, he committed some pretty serious sins. Yet God referred to him as “a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). His character, his motives, and his heart had won him the favor of God.

Mary possessed a character that the Lord was looking for.

What character traits or qualities are present in your life that God would find pleasing and attractive? What is it about you that would gain God's favor?

 

C. She Trusted God. (v.38)

She trusted God enough to be obedient and submit to the will of God.

Let's look at the rest of Mary's encounter with the angel Gabriel;

Luke 1:31-38 (NLT)
You will become pregnant and have a son, and you are to name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
Mary asked the angel, “But how can I have a baby? I am a virgin.”
The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby born to you will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What's more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she's already in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”
Mary responded, “I am the Lord's servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants. May everything you have said come true.” And then the angel left.


Think about the incredible calling Mary has received. Think about how this will affect the rest of her life. Think about her relationship with Joseph. We are told that they were pledged to be married. We normally think of that as being engaged, the period before the marriage. In this culture, though, it actually fell someplace in between… more serious than an engagement, but not quite marriage. Mary and Joseph were considered legally married, although domestically they weren't. They were even referred to as husband and wife, although they wouldn't actually move in together until an appointed time later on. This relationship was so serious that it required a legal divorce to break it off. And when Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant and he knew that he wasn't the father, he planned to divorce her. God did send an angel to him to explain the situation, but Mary didn't know that God was going to do that. As far as she knew, her relationship with Joseph may well have been destroyed. In fact, by law Joseph could have had her stoned. I’m not talking about drugs here, I’m talking about picking up rocks and hurling them at her.

And think about the affect this would have on her family life. Can you picture Mary going to her parents and explaining, “Mom, Dad, I'm pregnant. But it's okay - I didn't do anything”? How do you think her parents could have responded? Having a child out of wedlock can be embarrassing today, but it was much more severe in this time and culture. Mary could have been rejected or even disowned by her family. And maybe she was, we don’t really know.

And then you can think about the affect this would have on her personally. There would be a lot of shame in being pregnant while not being married. The society would look down on her. The people she knew as friends could have shunned her. It could be very humiliating. And along with that would come all of the sickness and pain of bearing a child. This was not an easy calling for Mary to receive.

And consider this. In all likelihood, she was just a young teenager. It wasn’t uncommon for people in this culture to be married at the age of 13 or 14. Think about dealing with all of these things while also dealing with adolescence.

Yet how does Mary respond?

READ TOGETHER

Luke 1:38 (NLT)
“I am the Lord's servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants.”

She put God's plans and wishes ahead of her own. She put God's desires above her desires. She was obedient to the will of God, and she believed that He could actually do what He said He would do. She trusted Him to do the impossible.

 

D. She Worshipped her God. (vv.46-55)

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. And she didn't boast. Instead of whining about the problems this would create in her life and instead of becoming egotistical and bragging about the fact that God chose her, Mary decided that she would worship. As a result, we have one of the most beautiful portions of Scripture. It's often referred to as the Magnificat (the opening word in the Latin Vulgate translation of the passage) or as Mary's Song, but what it is, is a statement of her praise and worship to God for choosing to use her as His servant.

Luke 1:46-55 (NLT)
Mary responded,
“Oh, how I praise the Lord. How I rejoice in God my Savior!
For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and now generation after generation will call me blessed.
For he, the Mighty One, is holy, and he has done great things for me.
His mercy goes on from generation to generation, to all who fear him.
His mighty arm does tremendous things!
How he scatters the proud and haughty ones!
He has taken princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.
He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands.
And how he has helped his servant Israel!
He has not forgotten his promise to be merciful.
For he promised our ancestors—Abraham and his children—to be merciful to them forever.”



Now look at the qualities that enabled Mary to be used of God. How do they rate in your life? To what extent are they present? In what ways are they lacking, and how can you develop those qualities?


The qualities we've looked at this morning are qualities that allowed Mary to give birth to Jesus, who was God in the flesh. But these qualities that we've discussed didn't develop in her life after she was chosen by God. They existed beforehand.


Mary didn't develop these characteristics because God chose her. God chose her because she had developed these characteristics.

A lot of us have dreams of being used by God in mighty ways. But I challenge you this morning; make sure that these qualities are developing in your life if you want to be used by God.




Ask Yourself…

1. Is there anything in my life that is coming between me and God? If so, why not ask God’s forgiveness?
2. Am I sensitive to the work of God in my life? Do I trust Him enough to obey, even when I don’t fully understand or when He promises the impossible?
3. When bad things happen, do I complain? When good things happen do I brag? Or do I choose to worship God?
 


 

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