This is an edited version of the vicar’s talk at the Mothers’ Union Lady Day service in our church on March 22nd:
Have you ever been involved in making a long term plan? A project that took a long time in the planning - perhaps planning for the holiday of a life time?
Our passage from Luke’s Gospel this afternoon – the Angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she was going to give birth to the Son of God – describes the unfolding of God’s plan to establish his eternal kingdom through his Son Jesus Christ.
“And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1v31-33 - Authorised Version).
It’s very clear from the Angel’s announcement to Mary that the birth of Jesus was not what we might a Plan B option.
So the planned destination for the holiday of a life-time, our Plan A, might be to go down under, to Australia or New Zealand. But unfortunately the airline we book with goes bust and there’s a real palaver getting our money back from the official receiver and so it’s on to Plan B, perhaps a cruise in the Mediterranean or if we’re really energetic an African Safari.
Was God onto Plan B in sending his Son to be born of Mary? He’d tried singling out a people group, the people of Israel, to be his own special people but they failed to live under his rule and failed to be his faithful people in the world so God tries his hand at another possible solution. Is Jesus Plan B?
The wording of the Angel’s announcement to Mary shows clearly that it was God’s intention long term that his Son should be born into the world to be its rightful ruler and king. There is no Plan B from God’s point of view. The birth of Jesus is the fulfilment of the plan of God as unfolded in the Old Testament Scriptures. The Angel declared: “The Lord God shall give him (Jesus) the throne of his father David.”
David was the king of Israel about 1000 years before the birth of Jesus. He was the king God chose to save his people from their enemies and to rule over them but he died and his kingdom was divided under his grandson and eventually destroyed by invading pagan enemies. The people of Israel were under the occupation of the multi-god-worshipping Romans when Jesus was born.
God, as the sovereign ruler of history, knew these disasters would happen in advance and it was always his plan that an everlasting King would inherit David’s throne. That everlasting, never-dying King, is Jesus, a physical descendant of David.
We also know that Jesus is not Plan B from the reference to the house of Jacob in the angel’s announcement. Jacob, renamed Israel, who lived some 1700 years before the birth of Jesus, was the father of the nation of Israel. It was his descendants who occupied the land of Israel as God’s people and who proved to be unfaithful. But again God was not caught napping by what befall the descendants of Jacob. It was his intention long term to appoint his everlasting Son as the ruler of his people and to do that in the fulfilment of time: “He (Jesus) shall reign over the house of Jacob; and of his kingdom there shall no end.”
The birth of Jesus is the fulfilment of God’s long-term plan to send his chosen King into the world. But how will Mary’s son, Jesus, establish God’s eternal Kingdom?
Luke’s Gospel as a whole provides a very clear answer to that question. In fact, we get the answer a few paragraphs after the Annunciation in Luke 1 in the Benedictus, the song of the father of Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist. John’s father, the Israelite priest Zechariah, celebrated the birth of his son John by declaring:
“And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the day-spring from on high hath visited us” (Luke 1v76-78).
So the Lord God Almighty through the day-spring from on high, through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is coming on a mission to remit, to forgive, to take away people’s sins so that they can be saved from the eternal consequences of their sins. For the offences that we commit as sinful people against the just, holy and good God who made us and who will one day judge us are offences that deserve the condemnation of death, the punishment of exclusion from the wonderful and glorious presence of the one true God.
This Jesus, this Saviour King, whom God had planned all along to send into the world, is going to die on the Cross to pay the price of your forgiveness and mine, to take the punishment of death our sins deserve and then to rise again as the everlasting ruler of God’s believing people. Luke’s Gospel describes those world-saving events.
Are we truly thankful in our minds and hearts for the wonderful kingdom the Lord Jesus Christ has come to establish, a kingdom in which we can receive God’s salvation and forgiveness? Are we grateful at the core of our being for the eternal salvation that the Lord Jesus has made possible through his death on the Cross and his resurrection from the dead? Are we rejoicing in the loving King whose kingdom will never come to an end?