Christmas is often seen as a time when you get together with your family. For some of us that might well be something that we’re looking forward to - things are ok. For some of us it might be something we’re dreading. For some of us still.. it might be friends that constitute the only sense of family that we have.
Whatever our situation. We have a deep human longing for family that really works. A healed family. A place we know is home.
This longing takes us to the heart of why Christmas is such good news and offers such hope. See, we don’t really understand Christmas (and by that i don’t mean Christmas is about Jesus not presents) - even Christians - we think Christmas is just a vehicle for Easter, for getting Jesus into the world so that then he can die for our sins. But, no, the good news of Christmas, of the incarnation goes much deeper than that.
This is the miracle of Christmas:
That the son of God became human so that humans could become children of God. put another way.
Jesus Christ came into our family to take us into His family.
that’s Christmas. that’s what we’re going to think about for the next 15 mins or so.
The virgin birth is really important for this.
Is the virgin birth really important? it’s difficult to believe. does it really matter? Luke thinks so.
Do you see how it’s emphasised in the passage?
In v27 Mary is twice called a virgin before we even get her name.
In verse 34 she says: "How will this be, since I am a virgin?"
and the angel answers “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 the Son of God.”
We are not really told how a virgin birth is possible. The Holy Spirit does it.
But we are told why a virgin birth is essential. Because the Holy One to be born already has a Father. He is the Son of God. See in the womb of the virgin Mary and in the person of the saviour Jesus, there is the uniting of two families. From the Father and the Spirit, Jesus remains fully God and from his mother Mary he takes to himself a full and perfect humanity.
Fully God, fully human.
Two families united in the person of Jesus
Jesus came into our family to take us into his family. That’s Christmas.
Well let’s think about those 2 families then.
First we’ll think about our family that Jesus joins himself to - humanity
Think about Mary for a sec.
Jesus’ Mother is sometimes lauded as a sort of supreme human being. ‘Hail Mary, full of grace’ - so goes the RC prayer to Mary. Now while it is right to call her ‘the blessed virgin mary’ and it’s right to call her ‘the Mother of God’ - Elizabeth uses both those titles, and while it’s right to seek to imitate Mary’s godly faith (we’ll come to that later). The emphasis in the passage is not on a woman who we need to come to because she is full of grace, NO, the emphasis is on a very ordinary person who is graced by God (a better translation of v 28) ordinary humanity ‘highly favoured’ by God.
See Mary’s name means ‘bitter myrrh’. She was the lowliest of a downtrodden people. From a poor family. From backwards Nazareth - the butt of every placee-name joke. A servant girl. Her age was probably between 13-15 years.
God could have gone to Jerusalem picked out Caiaphas’s daughter who was fair, rich, clad in gold embroidered robes and attended by a retinue of maids in waiting. But God chose Mary because to come into our humanity is to come low.
Turn over to Luke chapter 3 v23ff because there Luke gives us a summary of the human family - our humanity - as he traces the human ancestry of Jesus.
It’s interesting how it starts in verse 23:Now Jesus Himself was about 30 years old when He began His ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph. Luke again draws our attention to the virgin birth by letting us know that, although people thought Joseph was Jesus’ father, that was not the case. (we’ll come back to that). Nevertheless, born of Mary Jesus is fully human and part of the human family.
I don’t know if any of you who are pregnant are looking for baby names, but there are some great ones here. There’s Naggai and Zerubbabel and Er. And there’s famous people like David and Isaac and Abraham. But crucially Luke traces Jesus’ lineage all the way back to Adam. To say that Jesus is part of the One human family.
Adam - the first person with whom God initiated relationship. The first human being. Adam is the head, the father of the entire human race. (Now set aside biological questions for the time being. The scriptures are seeking to tell us something about the unity of our humanity. In Adam) He is the one that unites all humanity as one family.
So imagine a vast family tree (Christmas tree shaped!) with every person in the entire world who has ever lived and somewhere in that tree (towards the bottom for now) is YOU and your father and his father and his father all the way back to ADAM. Just like Jesus’ lineage. All the way back to Adam …And Adam’s Father? v38 God. God ‘made Adam out of the dust of the ground.’ Adam is called the Son of God.
That’s the human family. United In Adam. Can you see it? It’s remarkable …
But it’s also dysfunctional. ‘All families are psychotic’ so the canadian novelist Douglas Coupland reminds us. And this is true of humanity. We are a dysfunctional family because Adam rejected God and we all do the same. That’s the family likeness. We all want to be in charge of our own lives - not God. we want to be god in God’s world. That’s the dysfunction of the big family that ruins all families and all lives.
So you see this (family) Tree is like a Christmas Tree in more ways than just it’s shape. Christmas trees are weird aren’t they? we dress them up to look so nice - all glittery and sparkly. But cut from its roots it’s actually a dying thing in the corner of your room and one day very soon it will need to be thrown away.
In the same way the human family can dress itself up, we put on a good show but having cut ourselves off from the life of God we are therefore dying and will one day be thrown away. It’s not just that we’re dying physically.. but spiritually we have no future. We are a broken family..
So that’s the human family - the poverty of Mary - ‘bitter Myrhh’
And yet there’s hope because there’s another family in this story
An ancient family - as old as time itself.
Jesus we see here is the Son of the Father in the unity of the Spirit.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The bible consistently reveals that the one God is not a single solitary being but a community of loving persons. A family. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. So close in relationship that the 3 ARE 1. This is who God is a tri-unity. Trinity. Family.
The trinity is all over this passage. The trinity is all over Christmas. Jesus v32 is the Son of the Most High, the Son of God v35; The Lord God v33 is giving Jesus David’s throne forever and the Holy Spirit v35 is making it all happen.
This is who God is. A father loving his son in the joy of the Spirit.
This is the God in whose image we are made. The kind of family you and I long for because it’s what we were created for. This is HOME.
So you know when you glimpse, if ever, the joy of Christmas - round the dinner table, with loved relatives, with children or maybe it has to be with your friends. Those brief moments. The best Christmas ever gets is a hint of this love for which you were made. This family. Father Son and Holy Spirit.. This is what we long for.
Please forgive another family illustration. But it’s obviously appropriate. Sometimes Fiona and i have a hug in the kitchen and we’ll often feel one or two or three little people burrowing their way in - do you remember doing that with your parents? we want to be in don’t we? and we parents open up a bit and extend our arms to welcome a Rebecca or Hannah or Zac in.
The foundation of reality is God - A Father loving his son in the joy of the holy Spirit. Trinity. The perfect family.. And the miracle ofChristmas is this: that God in his love, in the womb of Mary, in the incarnation of the Son of God, the stooping of Jesus to become flesh he extends his family to us to draw us in!! Right in. The Son of God became what we are so that we might become what he is. Jesus came into our family to take us into his family.
Remember that important verse: Jesus was not, as it was thought, the son of Joseph. Jesus was not just one more son of man perpetuating the old race of Adam. No, In the virgin birth we have a NEW humanity being established. A new family tree. A second Son of God to belong to. The true and eternal Son of God becomes Man. A Second Adam.
Where the first Adam failed Jesus succeeds.
Jesus lived a perfect human life towards his Father God..
And then in his death, Jesus bore the brokenness of humanity; consequences for our rejection of God.
And when we now like Mary, trust in Jesus we are like a branch that is snipped out of the Adam tree and grafted into the Jesus tree. That’s a Christian. We’re all born in Adam and share in His sin and curse. But trust in Jesus and you are BORN AGAIN and come to share in His righteousness and blessings and his LIFE. As the carol says: Jesus was “Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.”
I look out and I know one thing about this congregation. You’ve all been born once. That’s beyond dispute. Have you been born again? Grafted by Jesus into his eternal family. Call out to him in your heart, ‘Jesus give me new birth into your family’ and see if you don’t feel differently about Jesus by the end of this sermon.
And if by grace you are part of God’s family. How are you getting on knowing him and enjoying him and living for him and sharing this amazing news. Use this advent to draw close to the God who has drawn close to you.