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“The Three Wise Women of Christmas: Mary”
Luke 1:26-38


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Advent Service I—December 3, 2008

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

For our three Advent services this year, we are focusing on the “Three Wise WOMEN of Christmas,” Mary, Elizabeth, and Anna. 

We hear a lot about the three Wise MEN, and they have a prominent place in the traditional Nativity scene.  But, we really know almost nothing about these Wise Men.  We don’t even know that there were three of them; that is only assumed because of the three gifts they gave to the baby Jesus.  Their traditional names, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, are not from the Bible but based on a Medieval manuscript, and are only a tradition.  They probably were not kings, as the Christmas song says.

In contrast to the very little we know about the three wise MEN, the Bible gives us great details about the three wise WOMEN who play such a prominent role in the Christmas story.  Hebrews says, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”  In the witness and faith of Mary, Elizabeth, and Anna we have a powerful testimony and example of faith for us to imitate.

We begin this evening with the first wise woman of Christmas, the first to know the Good News of the Incarnation, the woman who so very personally experienced all the events of Christ’s Nativity which we celebrate in this holiday season, “The First Wise Woman of Christmas: Mary.”

“God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a Virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The Virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’”

The question that first arises is: Why Mary was “highly favored” in God’s sight?  Was she without sin?  No, Mary was included with the rest of humanity in the declaration from Romans, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. . . .  All alike are under sin . . . There is no one righteous, not even one.”  So, why was Mary “highly favored” in God’s sight?  Because she was “wise,” in the most important way, as Paul in 2nd Timothy, “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

Mary was “highly favored” in God’s sight not because she was sinless but because she had faith in the promised Messiah.  Even before she knew that she was the one who would be so honored to bear the Messiah, to be the Mother of God, she had faith in the promises of old that the Messiah would one day come to our lost world to bring salvation.

 “The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’  Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.  You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.’”

The name Jesus literally means “The Lord Saves,” as the angel explains Joseph, “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  Jesus is your Savior, the Babe of Bethlehem came to save you from your sins.  On account of his life, death and resurrection, God forgives you all your sins.  As Peter says in Acts, “Everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.”  Like Mary, believe God’s promise; like Mary, have faith in the Messiah; like Mary, be “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus,” accept him into your heart as your Savior.

“‘You are to give him the name Jesus.  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, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.’ ‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’  The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon 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. . .  For nothing is impossible with God.’”

Martin Luther comments, “It is an article of our faith that, ‘I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary’ . . .  We Christians are called upon to believe and to confess a teaching which by the world is considered to be rank foolishness.  From the standpoint of reason, it does indeed appear to be a foolish concept for Christians to believe and confess. Women . . . become pregnant in only one way. . .  But, with Mary, God made an exception, something that had never happened before in the world, or would ever again happen as long as the world endures. She conceived a Child and became a mother not by virtue of a man, but by the Holy Spirit. Preposterous to human reason!” 

How did Mary herself respond to this amazing announcement from the angel?   “I am the Lord’s servant.  May it be to me as you have said.”  That is the other way that Mary was wise.  Against all the evidence to the contrary, against human reason, and the wisdom of the world, she trusted God’s Word and promise.  Paul puts it this way in 1 Corinthians: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom.”

Luther continues, “If you’re going to be a Christian, you will believe and do things which other people do not believe or do. Yes, I’ll have to appear odd and strange to other people who are vexed and offended because of my faith. That’s the situation here. I’m to believe that Mary, a virgin, is pregnant, and will become a mother. This sounds foolish and impossible. Nevertheless, it is true: God accomplished something unique with her, Mary was pregnant, became a mother, and yet remained a virgin!”

Follow the example of the first wise woman of Christmas.  Like Mary, trust in the Babe of Bethlehem as the Messiah, your Savior, be wise in the most important way, “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”  And, like Mary, against human reason, and the wisdom of the world, trust in the wisdom and promises of God’s Word.

Amen.

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