Luke 1:26-28 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.

The Advent of Jesus is a shocking reality - not just in that it happened, but in the way it happened. Put yourself in the messenger’s shoes! You’ve been tasked by God to announce a message that will turn the world upside down. It doesn’t get more important than this! If Gabriel’s like me – questions begin to abound!

Where are you sending me?

Surely Rome! And if not Rome, surely Jerusalem. Surely the importance of the message will be matched by the importance of the place. Then God clarifies the place – “to a city of Galilee named Nazareth.” The way we use the word “city” over-exaggerates Nazareth. Think less city and more village. Nazareth puts the word back in front of woods. As a matter of fact, when Nathaniel hears that Jesus is from Nazareth he says, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46) In the world’s eyes, Nazareth is right next to nowhere.

Who are you sending me to?

Surely the importance of the message will be matched by the importance of the person. What celebrity’s calling nowhere (I mean Nazareth) home? What big deal sort of person will be in Nazareth? Then God clarifies the person – “to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.” Mary’s a young teenager, no more than 15 years old. She’s grown up in Nazareth, which all but guarantees she couldn’t read this article. Mary’s engaged to a blue-collar construction worker named Joseph. Listen to Kent Hughes describe Mary in his commentary on Luke,

“From all indicators, her life would not be extraordinary. She would marry humbly, give birth to numerous poor children, never travel farther than a few miles from home, and one day die like thousands of others before her—a nobody in a nothing town in the middle of nowhere."    

The way of Advent is shocking. This world-upending announcement comes to “nowhere” Nazareth and to the “nobody” Mary. That’s something we should consider!

The way God worked in Advent is a picture of the way God always works in the world. In Matthew 5, Jesus gathers a crowd and preaches a sermon. His opening line reveals a key to the Christian life.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

To be poor in Spirit is to know we have nothing and God has everything. It’s the opposite of pride. Poor in spirit is a posture before God. It’s continually coming to God, knowing that we’re weak and needy and that he’s strong and sufficient. It’s a heart that realizes the only thing we bring to God is our need! Ironically, in the Kingdom of God, those who think they have- get nothing from God, while those who know they have nothing get everything from God!

The grace of God flows downhill. 

Grace flows away from the self-sufficient and toward the needy. Grace flows away from the strong and toward the weak. Grace flows away from the satisfied and toward the empty. Grace flows away from those who believe they have and toward those who know they have not.

Jesus is drawn to weakness, neediness, humility!

Isn’t it interesting - as God breaks into the night with the light of his Son, He doesn’t start with the powerful and popular. He starts with the weak, the needy, and the humble.

And this confronts us all. Far too often I find myself sitting smugly in the pews with the church in Laodicea needing this rebuke from Jesus. “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” (Revelation 3:17) Look at those words again…

wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked

Those words describe all of us, not some of us! And being poor in spirit means we’ve stopped running from that reality, and have humbly received it.

So do you feel weak and needy today? Do you feel like you have nothing to offer? Do you feel like a no one from no place? If so, there is good news for you! The grace and fullness of God breaks into our lives through our weakness. Advent reminds us - to the weak and needy God says, “Here’s all my strength and provision.”

 
 
 

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