I was reminded as I read some devotional materials from Christian Women Connection
- materials about this year’s Advent theme of Hope - that I have two types of
headphones that I use from time to time.
I do not like the ear bud kind of sound systems. I do not like things in my ears. but
there are two types of headphones I use. One allows me to hear. I is the kind with a
cord that attaches, in my case, to a laptop. The other allows me to not hear. It muffles
sounds, including of very loud machines. I have a machine that can pump up tires. It is
very loud, so when I use it, I wear the sound-elimination headphones.
One set of headphones helps hearing. The other eliminates hearing. Let’s keep that in
mind as we begin this year’s Advent messages with some considerations of sounds
heard, for this message, by a young woman - a girl actually - named Mary, whose is told
about in chapter 1 of the Gospel of Luke.
It is reported in verse 26 of Luke 1 that Mary lived in a city in the province of Galilee.
The city of Nazareth.
Nazareth was at best a small city, which means it was not especially important. Galilee?
It was the unpopular, disrespected northern part of the Jewish homeland. It was far
away from Judea, which was the very important southern province of the Jews.
In verse 27, we are told about Mary. She was a virgin who was betrothed. We would
probably word it engaged, but back then, a betrothal was more binding than the
engagements we have today. She was a virgin who was betrothed to a man named
Putting verses 26 and 27 together, we know Mary was a young woman - a common girl -
in a small city in an unpopular part of the Jewish homeland. Someone who no one,
outside her family and some friends, was likely to ever notice. The only exception being
Joseph, to whom she was to be married.
There appeared to be nothing special about Mary. But God noticed her and decided to
favor her with a special assignment. An assignment announced to her one day by an
angel named Gabriel.
As I picture the scene, I see Mary that day going about her normal day-to-day activities.
I don’t know. Maybe baking bread or doing the laundry. Something like that. It
appears she was, that moment of that day, alone. Which means she was likely the only
one who heard the announcement. Which means there was going to be no one to
confirm what she was about to hear. Therefore, she was going to have a very difficult
time explaining the announcement to others.
One day, as Mary went about whatever her normal activities were that day, she was
suddenly interrupted. The angel Gabriel - a special messenger from God - suddenly
appeared where Mary was.
Here is the announcement Gabriel gave to Mary. Here is how it started. “Hail, O
favored one. The Lord is with you.”
“Hail” was a normal greeting. The only shocking part of that word was that Mary
thought she was by herself. Suddenly having someone beside her, talking to her, must
have caused her to jump.
And being favored, the Lord being with her? The Lord being with her was probably not
shocking news. I mean, all Jews, including Mary, were well-aware of the love God has
for His people. But favored? That was a bit confusing. What was so favored about
being a young woman in a small city in a disrespected province?
Verse 29 reports Mary was “greatly troubled at the saying” - at how Gabriel began his
announcement. I think part of that was the shock of someone suddenly appearing
The verse also reports Mary “considered in her mind what sort of greeting this was.”
She tried to figure out what being favored really meant.
But then Gabriel continued. He said to Mary, “Do not be afraid. For you have found
favor with God. So much favor that you, Mary, have been chosen by God for a special
purpose. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His
Well, that was interesting news. Especially since, as will become evident pretty soon,
the implication was that she would conceive before she and Joseph would be married.
Conceiving after the wedding? No problem. That would be expected. But before? That
did not make sense. Especially since she had no intentions before being married of
doing what was necessary to conceive.
And did she hear correctly? The baby had already been named? The name was to be
Jesus? Was that not a variation of a name that means “God with us”? Did that mean
the baby was going to be someone very special, as in divine?
Apparently so. Which Gabriel went on to explain. Verses 32 and 33. “Mary, the baby
you will conceive will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord
God will give Him the throne of His father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob
forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
The Son of the Most High. That means the Son of God.
The throne of David. That represented the position of ultimate authority over the
people of God. It was through the lineage of David the Savior was to come.
Reigning and kingdom. Those things would not end. The authority of the one to be
conceived was to be permanent.
“Wow,” Mary must have thought. Why? Because all that was said indicated the one to
be conceived - the one to be conceived in her - was to be the Savior she and all other
Jews had hoped for for centuries. And yes, a Savior had been promised quite a few
times in the Old Testament. But the one Gabriel was describing was to be that Savior.
“Wow,” Mary must have thought. But “wait,” was her reaction. Wait. Again, the
implication is that the conceiving was to happen right away. “Wait,” Mary said. “How
can this be since I have no husband?”
Gabriel’s response? “Don’t worry about it. The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the
power of the Most High - the power of God - will overshadow you.”
I should probably admit I do not have a clue what that means. I’m pretty sure I’m not
supposed to know. That I am simply to take it as a miracle.
I am not sure Mary understood it either. She was simply to accept the process through
But the work of the Holy Spirit and of God in the conceiving was the plan. That was the
plan so, as Gabriel continued, the baby to be born would be able to be called “holy,” as in
pure, and truly the Son not of Joseph or any other man, but “the Son of God.”
Gabriel then reminded Mary of a miracle she knew about. I think that was to prove to
her that God had a history of doing unexplainable things. In verses 36 and 37, Mary was
reminded of a relative named Elizabeth.
According to the first part of Luke 1, Elizabeth was old, as was her husband Zechariah.
For as long as they had been married, Elizabeth had never had a baby, which, in that
culture, was a very sad thing.
But one day, an angel - Gabriel maybe - appeared to Zechariah and announced that
Elizabeth would conceive, which would be an answer to Zechariah’s prayer.
Again, both he and Elizabeth were old, so I doubt the prayer for a baby had been spoken
for a very long time. But that prayer had been spoken. It was about to be answered.
Elizabeth would conceive. A baby would be born. He was to be named John.
Gabriel said to Mary, “Think of Elizabeth. Her conceiving was considered impossible,
but she conceived. [She was, at the time of this announcement, six months into her
pregnancy.] If it happened with Elizabeth, it can happen with you, Mary?”
Why? Listen to what Gabriel said. “For with God, nothing will be impossible.”
At that moment, Mary had a choice. Would she put on the headphone that shut out
sound - the sound of the message of Gabriel, which was from God - the sound of hope
He had for her and for the world?
Or would she put on the headphone that allowed her to hear - the headphone attached
to God so she could hear all that God had in store for her and for the baby and for all
people of all ages?
Which headphone would Mary choose?
Verse 38. She chose the headphone that allowed her to hear. That choice is reflected in
her answer to Gabriel. She said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be to me
according to your word.”
Mary chose to be plugged in to whatever God said. She chose to listen to what God had
for her. And not only then, but always. She knew her role was to be obedient.
Mary said yes to God’s plan. A short time later, Mary did conceive. And no, she had not
been intimate with Joseph or with any other man. Instead, just as Gabriel had predicted
would happen, the Holy Spirit did come upon her and the power of the Most High did
overshadow her. Again, I have no clue how any of that happened. But Mary did
We are going to return to the headphones in a moment or two, but we also need to
consider what happened shortly after Mary conceived. What happened - what Mary
said - when she went to see her relative Elizabeth.
Remember? Gabriel had reminded Mary about Elizabeth. Shortly after the conceiving,
Mary went to visit Elizabeth. What she said during that visit is important for a couple
reasons. First, some of her words remind us how great Jesus is. Second, some of Mary’s
words remind us of her willingness to listen to God. A willingness we need to have as
What Mary said when visiting Elizabeth begins in verse 46 of Luke 1. Here is a summary
of her words.
Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord.”
I looked up the word “magnify.” In the context of Luke 1, it means to show honor to
God, and it extends to making God great. Of course, God was and still is great, no
matter what. He would still have been great even if Mary had said no. But by saying yes
- by staying plugged in to the sound of His voice - Mary made His voice - His purpose -
resonate. Her obedience honored Him.
She continued, “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Mary was happy. Her spirit -
everything she was - was happy to be obedient to God.
And Savior. She realized her son’s purpose, which was to save people.
How glad Mary was to be part of God’s plan. Even though she was of no importance
personally - of no importance to the world - though she admitted her low estate - she
knew and was amazed that “henceforth, all generations would call [her] blessed.”
And her son? Listen.
First, remember she had referred to Him as her Savior. Isn’t that an interesting
comment? Her son was to come, not just for everyone else, but for her, too. And isn’t it
interesting that Mary knew she, just like everyone else, needed a Savior?
And there is more. As she proclaimed, He would - He would grow up to - “scatter the
proud, but would show mercy to those who would fear Him.” He would grow up to put
down those who would misuse their might, but would “exalt those of low estate.” He
would one day discipline the rich - those who misused their wealth - but would “fill the
hungry with good things.” That is what Mary said about the baby she was carrying.
By the way, to visit Elizabeth, Mary had traveled quite a distance from her home in
Nazareth to Jerusalem, which is where Elizabeth lived. The straight line distance
between those two places is about 65 miles from north to south.
Three months after arriving in Jerusalem - just about the time Elizabeth’s baby was to
be born - Mary headed back north to Nazareth, where she was going to have to face
Joseph, which we will talk about next week.
For now, let’s return to the headphone Mary selected. The headphone of hearing the
sound of God - the sound of God’s hope. I think the thought I am about to mention is
important because of something that happened a while back when I was using the kind
of headphone that allowed me to hear an episode of M*A*S*H as Lynna Gene and I were
on a plane.
As I watched the episode, there were some very funny lines, which of course caused me
to laugh. But then, I felt Lynna Gene’s hand on my arm. When I looked at her, she
suggested I not laugh out loud. Which reminded me that no one around me knew what
was so funny because no one around me was plugged in to what I was plugged in to.
My point is this. The day of Gabriel’s visit, Mary was plugged in to the sound of God,
but no one else was. As mentioned earlier, Mary was alone that day. There is no record
anyone else in Nazareth was visited by Gabriel. Mary was the only one plugged in to
God at that time concerning the coming of the Savior.
For her, it was a whole lot more serious than it was for me watching an episode of
M*A*S*H. Think of it. Mary was likely to be accused of immorality. Such an accusation
might cause her to be turned out by her family. It most certainly would cause her
friends to reject her. Most definitely Joseph would end their betrothal.
And think of this. Religious law at the time allowed a man to stone an unfaithful fiance.
If that is how Joseph reacted, Mary would die.
And especially when word would get out that Mary claimed her son was to be the Savior,
think of the jealousy that would occur. I wonder how many times Mary heard behind
her back or to her face, “Who does she think she is?” That most certainly would have
come from women and girls who considered themselves prettier or richer or from better
And what about the quiet life Mary may have envisioned? Maybe not rich, but at least
quiet and peaceful. Listening to God would mean she would have a life raising a son
who was destined to be the Savior. What a responsibility she would have as He grew up.
She was going to have to keep the Savior safe. What trouble He would get into after
that. Trouble she would witness. Trouble all the way to a cross.
My point is this. Mary was the only one whose headphone - whose spiritual headphone
- was plugged in to God. Listening to the sound of God would lead to difficult times.
How tempting it might have been for Mary to switch to the headphone that would shut
out God. If she did not hear, she would not have to obey. That must have been a
But she did not switch. She listened to God. She agreed with God. She obeyed God.
She even rejoiced that she could and would do all those things.
So. Which kind of headphone are you using?
And no, what you face is not whether to give birth to the Savior. That has already been
done. But there are other issues you are facing. Challenges you have. Proddings from
the Lord to do something or to grow in some way. Or maybe it is God offering to help
you with grief or a financial problem or a relationship issue or a move of some kind.
Which kind of headphone are you using?
May none of us ever shut out the sound of hope that comes from God. Instead, may we
do what Mary did and stay plugged in to God.
And may that be shown in our reactions to whatever message God has for us. May each
of us say, “God, I am your servant. Let it be to me according to Your word.” May my
soul and your soul magnify and honor Him. May my spirit and your spirit rejoice that
we can listen and are listening to Him. May we always use the spiritual headphone that
allows us to hear God.
Today’s closing song talks about Mary. It also talks about her child, who was foretold,
not only by the angel Gabriel, but also by prophets centuries earlier. The song is Child
in the Manger. This will also serve as our benediction, so we will sing the amen at the
Child in the manger, Infant of Mary,
Came as a stranger born in the stall;
Sweet little Jesus sent down from Heaven,
God’s gift of new life offered to all.
Prophets foretold Him, Infant of wonder,
Angels behold Him there on His throne;
Worthy the Savior of all our praises,
Happy and ever blest are His own.