The Bible is full of announcements. Beginning in Genesis 1 where God announces that what He has created is “good”, and all the way to Revelation 22 where Christ’s return is promised as “coming quickly”, a variety of messages are announced to anyone “who has ears to hear”. It is announced to Noah that there will be a great flood (Gen. 6:13-14) and how he should prepare for it. Abraham is warned that destruction is coming upon Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18:16-21). Moses is told to go to Pharaoh and announce God’s message, “Let My people go” (Ex. 3:1-11). It is announced to Joshua that his battle plan is to march around the walls of Jericho (Jos. 6:1-5). Gideon is told that he will become a deliverer of Israel (Jud. 6:11-18). Elijah announces to Ahab that it will not rain for 3 years (1 Kin. 17:1). It is announced to Jonah that he is to go and preach to the Ninevites (Jon. 1:1-2). An angel comes to Daniel and announces the time frame of God’s plan for salvation (Dan. 9:1-27). While each one of these announcements carry their own distinct amount of surprise and often garner a strong reaction of protest, wonder or disbelief from those who receive them, they pale in comparison to the numerous times someone, usually a woman, received the good news that they would be having a baby.
Why were birth announcements so amazing? Because in most cases the prospect of having a child was deemed impossible! Abraham and Sarah had lived well beyond the years when children were biologically possible (Gen. 17:15-19; 18:1-15). Manoah and his wife had accepted a childless state when they received their special announcement (Jud. 13:2-3). Hannah was also childless (1 Sam. 1:13-18) as was the Shunammite woman (2 Kin. 4:8-17). In each of these stories there was a stigma attached to the woman for being unable to produce an heir. But in each of these stories, God demonstrated that He was not only the One who brought forth the fruit of the earth for physical sustenance but the fruit of the womb as well. Birth announcements are not limited to the Old Testament, but the two we have recorded in the New Testament are perhaps the most outstanding of them all. The announcement the Elizabeth and Zacharias receive in Lk. 1:5-20 resonates with similar elements to that of Abraham and Sarah and each child was the fulfillment of a great promise made by God (Gen. 12:1-3; 21:1-8; Mal. 3:1-2; 4:5-6; Lk. 1:16-17).
But perhaps the most spectacular and amazing birth announcement in all the pages of Scripture occurs in Lk. 1:26-38 when one of God’s most magnificent and impressive messengers visits a young but devout Galilean teen to tell her that she will become the mother of the promised Messiah. Unlike all her predecessors who had earthly husbands to assist in the baby-making process, Mary “has not known a man” (Lk. 1:34) and her betrothal period has not been consummated. But Gabriel explains, “Nothing is impossible with God” (v. 37). After all He is the God who created the world out of nothing! Mary’s response exhibits her extraordinary faith. She refers to herself as a doulos, a servant whose will is bent on doing only the will of the master and affirms that this event (as we would say) is as good as done.
During the final weeks of every year churches around the world celebrate the season of Advent which begins with reflections on the world’s greatest birth announcement which was continued in the grazing fields outside of Bethlehem 9 months later (Lk. 2: 8-14). It is the perfect time to think about the special announcements you have received throughout your lifetime- a promotion, an award, an engagement, a wedding, a graduation, a child- all have carried some special significance. But the greatest announcement that you and I will ever receive is embedded in the one Mary received from Gabriel. “You will bear a son and you shall name him Jesus (Yahweh saves)” for that Child has made the greatest announcement of all (Lk. 4:16-21; 24:44-48; Jn. 11:25; 14:6 and more!).
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
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