Theotokos

Sermon, Christmas 2015, Text: Luke 1:26-38, Title: Theotokos

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, 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.” 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 conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him 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 Jacob’s descendants 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 on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Introduction

It would be hard to overstate the importance of this passage.    In one sense everything hangs upon this narrative. Mary is theotokos, Greek for God bearer. In 450 AD the council of Chalcedon wrote, So, following the saintly fathers, we all with one voice teach the confession of one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man, of a rational soul and a body; consubstantial with the Father as regards his divinity, and the same consubstantial with us as regards his humanity; like us in all respects except for sin; begotten before the ages from the Father as regards his divinity, and in the last days the same for us and for our salvation from Mary, the virgin God-bearer as regards his humanity; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, acknowledged in two natures which undergo no confusion, no change, no division, no separation; at no point was the difference between the natures taken away through the union, but rather the property of both natures is preserved and comes together into a single person. Mary is called the mother of God. Protestants have avoided that terminology because they think it leads to worshipping Mary. However this is the miracle of miracles. Until the nineteenth century and the birth of liberalism all Christians believed this. Since then there has been an increasing effort to fashion Jesus as a mere man. Wise, holy, good, but merely a human teacher. Thus they would destroy Christianity, and eliminate all hope. Three things are revealed here, God’s strength, God’s sympathy, and God’s salvation.

I Strength

The announcement is made by the archangel Gabriel. He has been identified in previous verses as standing in the presence of God. His name means strength of God. In Isaiah 9:6 and 7 we read the prophecy and promise. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. This is hundreds of years before Gabriel appears to Mary. This is he zeal of the Lord, and His fervent desire. He can do it and He has done it. God in human nature and human nature in God. Like us in all respects except for sin yet fully divine. Our culture is ignorantly debating whether we can put a nativity scene in a public place. In our celebrations most people have no grasp of the miracle. Mary is theotokos and Jesus is “Man of Sorrows! what a name For the Son of God, who came Ruined sinners to reclaim. Hallelujah! What a Savior!” This is the miracle that changes everything. We today are likely to associate strength and power with big displays not with quiet moments and babies' soft cries,and we are wrong. Elijah fled after the miraculous triumph at Mt. Carmel where fire descended out of heaven. He hid in a cave where he cowered in fear. God came and called him out. Then he saw a terrible wind, followed by an earthquake, followed by a conflagration, signs of power but God was in none of them. Then God spoke in a still small voice. Bethlehem is God speaking in a small voice and declaring His infinite power in the event. THEOTOKOS!

II Sympathy

This miracle is the sine qua non, the thing without which we cannot be saved. It is the only way to bring about the second miracle which is Calvary and the empty tomb. This is what each of us needs. It is our deepest need and our most profound motive for thankfulness. Praise the Savior ye who know Him who can tell how much we owe  him? As the author of Hebrews explains it we needed a high priest of salvation who shares our nature in order to sympathize. Hebrews 4:14 & 15, Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. The Gospels only tell us some of the things that he suffered. He had the same troubles that are part of everyone’s experience in this world. He knows what it means to be tired and hungry. He lived in a hot, dry country and sometimes he was desperate for water to drink. He felt extreme strain. Often, people were trying to kill him. If Jesus, the Son of God, did not share in our suffering, could he become your faithful Savior? One of my favorite preachers in the PCA is good at reminding us that Jesus yawned and sneezed got muscle cramps and friends he cried as a baby, so the lyrics of away in a manger are not true when they say “No crying he makes.” We need to rid ourselves of this idealized romanticized Jesus who never had blood shot eyes. If He is not us, then he cannot substitute His life for ours at the cross of Calvary. THEOTOKOS.    

III Salvation

And the result of theotokos  is that Mary’s baby not only shares our nature and can act for us, He shares the Divine nature and can act for the Godhead, the triune creator and sustainer. He is Immanuel, God with us. The author of Hebrews writes in chapter 9:11-14, But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God. Now we say and sing that we are saved by the blood. What can take away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. Jesus thy blood and righteousness my beauty are my glorious dress. Would you be free from the burden of sin: there is power in the blood. But all the blood of  Jewish sacrifices, all the blood shed in hospitals, all the blood lost on battlefields is powerless and  your blood and my blood is useless. None of it can effect a single sin. One blood is more precious than silver or gold because it redeems. It is the blood if Jesus the Christ, the Son of God. It alone is sufficient because Mary is theotokos, the God bearer. Merry Christmas and welcome to the blood that saves eternally.