In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. [Behold!], you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. [Behold!,] your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “[Behold!] Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
I wonder if he thought he had the address wrong. Gabriel must have looked sideways at the directions. Nazareth? He was looking for a teenaged girl, Mary, to whom he would announce the coming of the Messiah—to be conceived by the Holy Spirit in her womb and born through her virgin body.
History calls it the annunciation. I never understood that word. It always felt like the inaccessible terminology of some distant theological doctrine. Why didn’t they just call it “The Announcement?” That’s what it means. Why do we need a big-city word for a small-town story? Gabriel didn’t go to Jerusalem or Athens or Rome. He went to Nazareth, a place of apparent insignificance. Later, upon hearing Jesus is from Nazareth, Nathanael will remark, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46).
God chooses the apparently insignificant to accomplish the impossible. Cities matter to God, but he seems to reserve something special for small towns. More people live in cities, but there are a whole lot more small towns. There’s something about small-town life that fosters big-time faith. Behold the announcement:
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. [Behold!], you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.”
Behold the faith of the handmaiden of the Lord, Mary. She dares to question the angel:
“How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
Behold the unprecedented nature of the angel’s impossible answer:
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.”
Behold the angel’s bold declaration:
“For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Behold Mary’s bold and unflinching prayerful declaration of faith:
“[Behold!] Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.
This is small-town faith in a big-time God. In fact, if we had to boil this whole thing down to two essentials, I think these would be the two:
Faith: “Nothing will be impossible with God.”
Prayer: “Let it be with me according to your word.”
Bottom line today: he has your zip code too. Small town or big city, he has your zip code. Just remember, faith says yes before the assignment comes. It comes down to faith and prayer. Start practicing now. Faith: nothing will be impossible with God. Prayer: let it be with me according to your word.
Our Father in heaven, nearer than my breath, thank you for these days of Advent and this new year in Christ. Faith and prayer, that’s all I need. Here is my faith, Lord Jesus: nothing will be impossible with you. And here is my prayer: may it be with me according to your word. Come, Holy Spirit, and train me in these stunningly simple and ever-deepening essentials of faith and prayer. In the name of Jesus Messiah—the one who came, is here, and is coming again—for his glory and our good, amen.
Will you write these two essentials down today: faith and prayer? Nothing will be impossible with God. Let it be with me according to your word. How can these go forward with you?
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