Luke 1:26-38                            


Last week someone told me that I reminded that person of Sheldon Cooper on the hit television series “Young Sheldon” that is now on Netflix. I think it was originally on CBS. So, Sheldon Cooper is an amazingly precocious genius of a boy who loves to display his superior intellect by repeating arcane facts. The character chimes in “ooo, here is a fun fact,” and then goes on to bore his audience. Thank you for the compliment!

Ooooo, here is a fun fact, too: Christmas was not designated as December 25th until the year 217A.D. by Pope Hippolytus. Then, it was actually what Christmas means: it was a mass for Christ, a special worship service for him, not mentioning his birth at all. The Pope Liberius in 354 was the first to celebrate Christ’s birth during the Christ’s mass on December 25th. In 381 Theodosius finally set Christ’s birth as December 25th at the Second Council of Constantinople--this is four hundred years after the birth of Christ.

Why did I just bore you with those fun facts? If you read this text and cogitate the numbers of the dates that are mentioned, you realize that Jesus must have been born in March or later. So, if I wish you “Merry Christmas”on Saint Patrick’s Day, you will understand why!

“Oooo, one more fun fact:” The missionaries that established this very church two hundred years ago did not celebrate Christmas at all–on any date. There are still some Christian traditions that do not celebrate Christmas, or have a different date altogether.


Christmas is not about the date 25 December. We have to be careful that we remember what Christmas is all about. It is about God coming down in the form of Jesus Christ out of God’s love for all of us. It is always nice to get a message of love and a visit from God whenever it takes place.

Now I remember when my family came back from Thailand, from being missionaries there overseas, and our first Christmas back in a “Christian Country.” I am talking about America. We were living out on the Westside of Los Angeles and my daughter Carolyn was attending the local elementary school there.

 I got a call from one of the teachers at my daughter’s elementary school. She was upset because the principal of the school had told all of the teachers that they were not allowed to have Christmas trees, decorations, or sing carols. She wanted me to go down there and complain to the principal that what she was doing was just plain wrong. She told me that there were a lot of teachers that felt the way that she did. So, I asked her: “Is being in conflict with the principal and perhaps even losing your job your idea of Christmas cheer? It is not about evergreen trees, Santa Claus, and Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. Christmas is about believing when it makes no sense to believe. It is about finding love in the most unexpected places. It is about accepting God’s truth over all of the human truths that we are faced with day-to-day.” I told that teacher that the best that she could do, is to show Christ’s love to her children and to wish the principal of the school a very merry Christmas just the same. That is what Christmas is all about.


In our text for today we see the Angel Gabriel coming down out of heaven to talk with Mary. Gabriel, in Hebrew Scripture, is an angel of God who came to Daniel as a man in order to tell him the meaning of a dream (see Daniel 8:15-16). He was considered by the Jews of the day to be the top angel.

Yet, here is another fun fact related to our having lived in the city of Los Angeles, Mary herself is considered to be the “Queen of Angels.” That is what Los Angeles is named for: “El pueblo de la nuestra Reina de Los Angeles de Porciuncula.” When the Angel Gabriel greets Mary, he “hails” her as being full of grace. The angel recognizes his own queen of angels. Yet, she herself does not understand her role in heaven yet and so she is perplexed.

When she is talking to the angel, she responds in the end with the line “. . . let it be according to your word.” In this phrase we have the Greek word “kata” being translated as “according to.” This word literally means “underneath.” Mary is telling the angel that she is under God’s command. She accepts in perfect submission this assignment from God to bear the Son of God into the world. She surrenders her own will to the Will of God.

 This kind of surrender of one’s own will comes not because of another person’s status or uniform. The surrender comes out of love and the willingness simply to sacrifice out of that love. I get the sense with Mary, she surrenders her will not because God is the Almighty but rather because she loves God with all her heart and is willing to make whatever sacrifice out of that intense love. She submits to God freely out of her love for God, and it is the most beautiful kind of surrender. It is not superficial but completely heartfelt.

 This is where the theological question of the birth comes into play! Mary submits to God, but Mary is God’s mother! Doesn’t Jesus have to submit to Mary? How did that growing up actually work out? I believe that Jesus actually submitted himself to Mary out of his great sacrificial love for her and for all of us as well.

So, when Jesus was growing up and Mary asked Jesus to set the table, I am sure he did. I am sure that he swept the house and made his bed. He did these things out of his love for his mother.  I can imagine that when Joseph, his father, asked him to brush out the family donkey, or rotate its hooves, or whatever one does on a donkey, that Jesus did it out of his love for his father.

 And, I know that when Jesus Father in Heaven asked him to give up his very life on the cross, that he did that out of his perfect submission to the Will of the Father and out of his love for His Father and for all of us. Amen to that.

 So, this morning we are left asking that most important question: “What is God’s Word to us?” I want to remind all of you that having an angel come down to visit you in your life is just one way to receive the Word of God over your life. We can see even through the life of Jesus that the Word of God came to Him through fasting, prayer, scripture, and yes even angels as we see at his birth, transfiguration, and resurrection.  So, even if you have never been visited by an angel, please remember that there is prayer and Holy Scripture that are always available to you. And, if you have been visited by angels, then know that you have a double blessing on your life.

  The important thing is to submit your life under the Word of God. Live your life according to the Word that you do receive. Paul writes in Romans 6:22, “But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life.” Submit to the Word of God to receive sanctification and eternal life—not to mention freedom from sin!                   

            I have noted a strange movement in Christian churches today in which it seems almost as if God is supposed to submit to human will rather than the other way around. In these churches, the people never pray the Lord’s Prayer. They never call up to God: ”Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”     Our goal is to submit to God out of our love for God as Mary did. We need to be our better angelic selves. She lived in a small town married to a carpenter day-worker and had her firstborn son convicted as a criminal and executed by the state.  Yet, what made her great, what sanctified her life, was that she submitted wholeheartedly to the Will of God. She loved God to the point of sacrificing her own Son for His Will to be accomplished.

Verse 37 says that nothing is impossible. This is true. God can and constantly does miracles all around us and through us. Soooo, it is possible that God is calling on you to do a miracle in another person’s life.

Yet, and to be sure, the miracle of Christmas is that which the Apostle John wrote in his Gospel, John 3:16. This text is the essence of what we celebrate today. “God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son. . . .” God loves us enough to make that ultimate sacrifice for us. Mary so loved God that she also made such a sacrifice for all of us. For the love of God, Christmas truly is the celebration of the love of God.




            Today, I ask that we hear the Word of God coming over our lives at this time of Christmas and that we submit our lives to that Will. Let our lives be sanctified through Christ, through sacrifice, and our obedient love of our Lord.  Amen.