The angel Gabriel calmly entered Mary’s parents’ home in Nazareth and pronounced an astounding blessing on her. He may well have appeared as a normal man of that day because it seems his greeting rather than his appearance was what startled her. With obvious pleasure (angels are happy creatures because they love their Boss), but without extra drama, he announced to her several realities about which she had previously been ignorant. These simply stated metaphysical facts reverberate through human history and destiny with tectonic force down to the present. It happened on a normal day. God is always at work on normal days.
Naturally Mary was frightened at first, but Gabriel calmed her with assurances that what God was doing was a blessing not only to her but also to the world, indeed to the universe as we know it. She was to have a baby, even though she was a virgin with no human prospects of pregnancy. The stunning thing about this event from Gabriel’s point of view was not that it would occur without the typical human baby-making technology. God created the universe out of nothing after all. The creation of a human with only one half of the normal biological equation was not difficult. It was the identity of the child that was shocking. That’s why Gabriel elaborated on this rather than dwelling on just how God would accomplish it. How the Lord does what He does is less important than the fact and experience of His action. Why do we quibble about small details?
The boy would be called Jesus, a common enough name in Mary’s world. It was the Hellenized version of the Hebrew name Joshua, meaning, “YHWH is salvation.” Lots of kids in Israel had that name. But this boy would be very different. He would actually be the salvation of God, the King in God’s kingdom, the heir to David’s throne, and would be known as the Son of the Most High—God’s own offspring. Saint Matthew says precisely that this child would be “God with us.” Clearly all the first Christians experienced Jesus this way. He was God’s living salvation, walking around in sandals and hugging kids in the neighborhood.
As the King on David’s throne Jesus would rule not only the covenant people in this age, but the entire universe in the next. Isaiah spoke directly of this reign, an endless ever-expanding, tangible reality in the universe, a reign that would bring unimaginable joy and peace to all who would experience it (Isa 9:6-7).
Now that is worth pondering. As astounding as it sounds, it is the reality in which we Christ-followers daily live—God intentionally and personally with us. This is the essence of the message of Christ. God irreversibly entered human life and history, bringing with Him His kingdom and power. In this man Jesus, who died as horribly as any man could and returned healthy and handsome from the grave, the kingdom of the heavens, God’s active reign, is personified—and offered to any who trust Him. That is you, Christian friend. (Matt 28:18-20; Luke 24:44-49; John 11:24-26)
The fact is that God is renovating the universe, starting with the souls of His people in this darkened age. He will eventually bring the entire present order of things to a close and fulfill on earth what has been true all along in His dimension, the heavens. His personal, joyful, excellent wisdom will permeate the universe without interruption or opposition. The life of His kingdom is what the Spirit gives to those who repent and come to the King now. So as His adopted children and loyal subjects we grow into contributing members of small colonies of the coming age (Eph 4:11-16). We are not very good at living this transformed kingdom life, yet. Most of what it means to be an apprentice to the King has to do with our halting but persistent attempts to emulate our Master’s ways. Nevertheless we press on with confidence in His grace and sovereign purposes, and with the strength He provides (Phil. 2:12-13).
God’s intention for you as his son or daughter is that you will have a never-ending life of unutterable joy, peace, beauty, strength and creativity. You will live in an entirely safe and secure, yet ever expanding and constantly more wonderful universe, where you will contribute to and cooperate with unimaginably marvelous leadership and teamwork in the achievement of infinitely good and meaningful goals. Your relationships will all be profoundly deep and fulfilling and you will have infinite time and resources to develop them. The seed of this endless life germinates in you the moment you put your personal trust in God’s one and only Son, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ (John 3:15-16, 10:10, 30-31: 20:30-31).
What a gift! Merry Christmas indeed!