I want some mothers to tell real briefly about how they heard the news that they were pregnant for the first time. Did you take a home pregnancy test? Did the doc tell you? Or did you just know? Or maybe your husband just told you, “Hey, you’re getting fat.” How did you feel when you heard the news? Were you scared, excited, worried?
A little boy went to his dad and said, “Daddy, where did I come from?” The dad, not wanting to get into all that with such a young kid, said, “Your mother hatched you from an egg in a nest.” He went to his mama and asked her where SHE came from. His mother said, “Well, the stork brought me.” So, he goes to grandma and asks her where SHE came from and his grandmother told him that God had formed her. The little boy goes back to one of his little friends and says, “You know, there hasn’t been a normal birth in our family in 3 generations.”
Is there such a thing as a “normal” birth? Oh, sure, doctors see it every day. It’s no big deal to them. But to me, every birth is a crazy miracle. And the birth may turn out like the doctor expected it to, but there’s not much that is normal when you give birth to a baby. Your version of “normal” just changed forever. It’s no over-statement to say that a baby changes everything.
When you are around a pregnant woman, what does she want to talk about? The sky may be falling and the grass is turning blue but the question on her mind is, “Which stroller is safest? What should I be eating? How many diapers should I buy? How long before that husband of mine brings me some chocolate???”
And there is not only the physical aspect of pregnancy but I don’t know how mothers do it mentally. It would freak me out knowing I had to take care of myself and the baby when there are so many decisions to make. What to eat, what to drink, what to wear, where to go, when to go, is the baby gonna be normal, what to name him, what color is the nursery going to be?
It’s a miracle anybody ever gets through it, much less the baby. But the birth of a baby is one of the greatest miracles God has ever done. And like I said, it happens every day. But what if you were to be…THE mother? What if your child was to be THE Child? What if you were carrying…the Christ child? No pressure there, right?
How did Mary not just freak smooth out when she found out? And, oh, how she found out! She didn’t have a doctor to do a blood test. The rabbit didn’t die for Mary. No, she had none other than the angel Gabriel come to her house and say, “Hey, how ya doing? I’m Gabriel, sent from God, to tell you that you are the one chosen from all women in creation to carry the baby Jesus. But don’t worry about anything, ok? Have a good day!”
What would be your response? How would you handle that kind of news? Well, let’s look at Luke chapter 1 to see what Mary’s response was. I like Luke’s account of the story. I read a commentary that said Luke was a good person to tell this story because he was a doctor and would know full well how babies were born. Well…I’m pretty sure you don’t have to be a doctor to understand the fundamentals but Luke is very thorough like you would expect of a doctor. So, let’s turn to Luke 1:26-38.
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
I’m quite sure that no first-time mother has ever been completely prepared for what motherhood would bring. Nobody could ever be completely prepared for the joy and the heartache that it brings. Nobody could prepare for the laughter and the tears or be ready to have their heart broken or be prepared for their child’s heart to be broken like all mothers experience.
How much more those things, the wild pendulum of emotions that would soon come to Mary? Probably just a teenager, Mary had yet to experience a lot of things in life and yet now she is to be the caretaker for the Savior of the world. And yet here we see young Mary had faithful obedience to what God had planned for her life.
I want to look closer at that phrase “faithful obedience” this morning. We would all like to think that we had faithful obedience to God but what does it really mean? What does it look like to have faithful obedience as a mother…as a person? Mary truly was, in the literal sense of that first word, full of faith. She was faithful.
See this? It’s a leaf. There is nothing special about this leaf. It looks just like all the others. But I want to ask you a question. Do you believe that God made this leaf? Sure you do. Even a little child can understand that God made the leaves. Have you ever made a leaf? Have you ever made a real leaf out of nothing? Have you ever truly created anything out of nothing, especially something as beautiful as a leaf? If you had all of the resources known to man and money was no object and you had all the scientific knowledge in the world, could you make one leaf out of nothing? Of course not.
And yet, how many leaves are on one tree? How many trees are there in the world? And we believe that God made them all and yet so many people get hung up on the virgin birth. If God can make a leaf; if He can make a tree and a mountain and a sunrise and sunset; if He can part the Red Sea, make a donkey talk and float an axe head and even sell the Runaway Bay property, then why would you think that He can’t make a baby in an unconventionally miraculous way?
One of my Bible commentaries is written by a very smart man that I go to a lot to help understand different passages. And when I opened it to the part of Luke chapter one where it talks about the angel coming to Mary, he says that this is not to be taken literally. It is just “a beautiful way of stressing the presence of the Spirit of God in family life.” (Barclay, Family Study Bible Series)
He goes on to explain all the reasons he thinks so. I was amazed! Toward the end of the book he says with confidence that Jesus died on the cross but was raised again and lives today. He didn’t have any problem with that! But virgin birth? That couldn’t happen.
But look at Mary’s response to Gabriel. Of all the people who should be skeptical; only she knew for sure that she was a virgin. Only she was there to see the angel. Of all people she should have doubted and yet look at what she says in verse 34. “How will this be since I am a virgin?” She’s not doubting like Zechariah did in verse 18. She just needs a little clarification and the angel knows that so he tells her simply that the Holy Spirit is going to be in control of all that. And that’s all she needs to hear. She didn’t ask the obvious questions that must have flooded her mind. “What am I going to tell Joseph? What will my family think? What will the neighbors think?” There is no way that she understood it all. And yet she was full of faith.
And do you know what faith brings? When God tells you to do something, He rarely tells you the whole story. He just tells you what to do and when you, full of faith, just do what He says, do you know what always comes with that faith? Peace comes with that faith. Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In Mark 5:34, Jesus tells the bleeding woman who touched Him, “Dear woman, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” There is a direct connection between faith and peace. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” And one of those rewards is peace. And we know that Mary had peace. “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” She didn’t understand. She just believed.
She believed that if God brought her to it, He would bring her through it. She believed because she had read the old scriptures where God had proven Himself faithful for all those years and because God was faithful, she could be full of faith. So why worry if God is in control? All she had to do is be obedient. Ah! But that was the trick, right?
It’s one thing to say we believe; to say we have faith. We might say we are the Lord’s servant…”but how, but why, but when? I’m going to have to fix this.” I gotta do something. But obedience is a combination of us doing what we are supposed to do and then just allowing God to do what He wants to do. Do you know what obedience is not?
Obedience is not worry. Philippians 4:6 says not to be anxious about anything and so that makes worry a sin. Worry is not obedience. Do you know what obedience is? Obedience is prayer. The rest of that beautiful verse in Philippians says, “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” So, obedience is not worry. Obedience is prayer and even thanksgiving to God.
Obedience says, “I don’t understand this. I don’t know how this is going to work out. It doesn’t make any sense to me. But, Lord, I have faith in you. I have faith in you in spite of my circumstances. And I give you thanks in spite of my circumstances. In fact, I give you thanks FOR my circumstances.”
A.W. Tozer said, “The Bible recognizes no faith that does not lead to obedience, nor does it recognize any obedience that does not spring from faith. The two are opposite sides of the same coin.” And do you know what obedience brings? We saw that faith brings peace. Well, when you have done everything you are supposed to do; when you have prayed and thanked God for what you are going through, and you haven’t been worrying, then you can just relax and have joy. Obedience always brings joy.
Several years ago I decided I was going to find out how to get joy. I wanted to know what the Bible said about how to get it and how to keep it. So, I scoured the Bible. I looked at the people who had joy. I read what it said about joy. I did word studies, book studies, people studies and everything I read led me to one thing. To have joy, you have to be obedient.
Anytime you see somebody in the Bible with true joy, you look close and you will see that they were being obedient. Paul – obedient Paul, right? – Paul, probably more than anybody else talks about joy. Paul, who had more physical problems and struggles than anybody else -even more than you - says in 2 Corinthians 7:4, “I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.”
The world would say that is impossible because for the world, joy and happiness are the same thing. Their state of mind fluctuates with their circumstances. When things are bad, they are depressed but Paul knew what Mary knew what some of you know that when you are obedient to God; when you are doing what He has told you to do and no more and no less then you can just relax and have joy because the one who made the leaves is in control and He loves you!
Dr. B.J. Miller once said, "It is a great deal easier to do that which God gives us to do, no matter how hard it is, than to face the responsibilities of not doing it." (Today In The Word, November, 1989, p.11.) Have you ever had to face the responsibility of not doing what God has told you to do? It’s miserable, isn’t it?
I’ve told you before that there was a period in my life that I spent away from God. I went were I wanted to go, I did what I wanted to do and I said what I wanted to say. And I have never wanted to die any more than I did back then. I had no joy. I had no peace. Because I was not faithful and I was not obedient.
Look, we are making this harder than it has to be. Do you want joy and peace? Then go where God wants you to go, do what He wants you to do and say what He wants you to say. And you don’t have to worry about the consequences because you are not in control. God is.
But the reason this is harder than it has to be is because the world doesn’t want us to live that way. The world wants us to live like them. Misery loves company. And so everywhere you go there is someone or something trying to distract you. “Hey, look over here. Something shiny!”
Look one more time at how Mary answered the angel in verse 38. “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” How refreshing that must be for God to hear. She didn’t say what we usually say. “But God, I can’t because… But God, I won’t because… That’s not fair. I don’t understand. I can’t afford it. What will the neighbors say?”
No. She simply said with faithful obedience, “I am the Lord’s servant.” That’s what God wants to hear from you today as well. Honestly tell Him that you are His servant and He will give to you the peace and the joy you have been looking for. Let’s do that right now. As the music plays…
Please remember that sweet little baby in a manger came to this earth for one reason. He was born to die for you on a cruel cross as a substitution for you. His perfect life and His death paid the penalty that God requires for your sin and all you have to do is believe in Him and ask Him for forgiveness and allow Him to come into your life and change you and He will.
And with that comes peace and joy in this life and eternal peace and joy with Him in Heaven. Make that decision today. We aren’t guaranteed another breath.