Joy To The World

Bible Book: Luke  1 : 26-31
Subject: Christ, Birth of; Nativity; Joy in Jesus; Christmas
[Editor's Note: Dr. Owen wrote the following as an article, but it is interesting and inspiring, and it certainly carries material that can help the pastor formulate a sermon for Christmastime.]

There is perhaps no more joyous occasion than the announcement that a family is going to have a baby. And there was no such greater announcement than when Mary was told that the human family was about to be added to by the fruit of her womb. But this would be no ordinary birth, for God was the Father; and it would be no ordinary baby, for it would be the God-man. The events described in this text are often called the “Annunciation,” which simply means the foretelling of Christ’s birth. But this was more than a simple birth announcement; this was a message of “Joy To The World!”

I. Let’s Consider The Joyful Announcement

A. There Was A Messenger

“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son...” (Hebrews 1:1-2). But, on occasion, He used an angel to communicate a specific word to some member of humanity.

Gabriel, whose name means “the mighty one,” has already made one appearance and one announcement in Luke 1 as he appeared to Zacharias. As he introduces himself to Zacharias he says, “I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to show thee these glad tidings” (Luke 1:19). He would seem to be God’s personal messenger, one who awaits God’s divine bidding. He is an angelic messenger. We really have no biblical foundation to call him an archangel, and he doesn’t seem to be a seraphim or cherubim, but the fact that Gabriel is an angel is indisputable.

The term “angel,” which means, “messenger,” is used ten times in the first chapter of Luke in referring to Gabriel. This divinely appointed envoy is an accomplished messenger. This is not his first assignment. On two occasions, Gabriel came to present the meaning of visions to Daniel (Daniel 8:16; 9:21). He appears to Zacharias here in Luke 1 to proclaim a miracle, and we then see him in his finest hour as he is sent to Mary (Luke 1:26).

The Bible says that “the angels desire to look into” the things that God does in man’s behalf (1 Peter 1:12). This angel Gabriel is further seen as an appreciative messenger, one who cannot help but admire what God is doing in the life of Mary. He says, “Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women” (Luke 1:28).

B. There Was A Message

A messenger is not a messenger without a message. Gabriel’s message to Mary first involved a word of consolation.

Now I have never received a visit from an angelic emissary, nor do I expect to. But I think that if I ever did, I would, with Mary, be troubled about it. But “the angel said unto her, “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God” (Luke 1:30). This message further involved a word about conception. “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS” (Luke 1:31).

There is certainly a miraculous aspect to all of this. The virgin birth is foundational to everything that we believe. It is vital to our faith and our doctrine.

There is also a mandate in the words of Gabriel. “Call His name Jesus” (Luke 1:31). Mary and Joseph didn’t have to get the name books out. This was never a concern for them. This name “Jesus” is the New Testament equivalent to the Old Testament name, “Joshua” meaning “Jehovah is Salvation.” That summarizes everything that Jesus is.

Gabriel goes a step further, giving Mary a word of confirmation. After clarifying that the conception would be a work of the Holy Ghost, as if to give Mary a further proof of God’s mighty and marvelous works, he said, “And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:36-37). If God can give conception to a barren, void womb, He can give conception by the Holy Ghost to a virgin womb. And because the “son is given” (Isaiah 9:6), He can bring life to the empty place in your heart.

II. Let’s Consider The Joyful Acknowledgment

A. Notice The Acknowledging Recipient

This astonished young lady named Mary received a message from God by means of an angel. There are some important marks of distinction in Mary’s life that we should mention.

First of all we notice her purity. The Bible says that Gabriel appeared unto a “virgin” (Luke 1:27). She has lived a clean life, and God desires to use clean vessels. He desires to use those who are pure and devoted. In Mary, He found such a vessel.

We also learn that Mary was “espoused to a man whose name was Joseph” (Luke 1:27). She had been given, not just a proposal, but also a promise of marriage. Espousal was stronger than our modern custom of engagement. The espousal involved about a yearlong period in which there was commitment, preparation, and purification prior to cohabitation. Mary and Joseph had not lived in the same household, nor shared the intimacy of marriage. But by the time Jesus is born there is both a mother and a stepfather who are together called “the parents” (Luke 2:27). God saw to it that this would be no single-parent household.

Let’s also consider Mary’s parentage. In Luke 3:23, “Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli.” Now in Matthew’s genealogy, we are told that Joseph was the son of Jacob, but there is no controversy. Dr. Scofield indicates that Heli would have been Mary’s father, thus making Joseph the son-in-law of Heli. It is interesting to me that Joseph’s genealogical record in Matthew 1 goes as far back as Abraham so that Jesus was legally a Hebrew son. Here, this genealogical background of Mary and thus of Jesus, goes all the way back to God - to Adam who, according to Luke 3:38, was the son of God, thus reminding us that Jesus was a Heavenly son.

B. Notice The Acknowledging Response

Gabriel has revealed to Mary all of these details about the greatness and identity of her coming son in this annunciation or announcement. What is her response? First she makes an argued response. Luke 1:34 says, “Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” To me, this is a legitimate question.

From the basic standpoint of biology, every child has a father and a mother. But Gabriel begins to explain in verse 35, “the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the highest shall overshadow thee.” Do you think that this resolved all the questions in her heart? Probably not. How are you going to explain the “immaculate conception?”

Mary probably still had some questions, but she finds out that God is at the very heart of what is going to transpire. We consider again that in verse 36 further proof is offered by telling her of Elizabeth’s conception in her old age - far beyond childbearing years. Gabriel offers a very powerful word to Mary in verse 37 when he says, “With God, nothing shall be impossible.” Recall in Genesis 18:14, the angel of the Lord, no doubt a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ, came to Abraham and Sara and told them that they were going to have a son. They too, are far beyond childbearing years and from a human standpoint, this was impossible. Sara, listening in the next tent, begins to laugh for she is an old woman. The Lord says to Abraham, “Wherefore did Sara laugh ... Is anything too hard for the Lord” (Genesis 18:13, 14). Now, some 2000 years later, the angel Gabriel brings word to Mary “with God, nothing shall be impossible”.

The old question is answered here. We cannot limit God! At best, our capacity to understand the ways and the person and power of God is limited, but God is bigger than our perception and understanding of him. He can break the laws of biology, of physics, and chemistry and all the other scientific laws that He, Himself, has established. He can go above and beyond those things. Why? Because he is God and with Him, nothing shall be impossible!

In Luke 1:38, we find both an assured and an agreeable response from Mary when she says, “behold, the handmaid of the Lord. Be it unto me according to thy word.” She says, “God, whatever you want to do in my life, I’m in favor of it.” Oh, that we could get to that place in our Christian experience! God, whatever you want, that’s what I want.

III. Let’s Consider The Joyful Aftermath

A. By Meditating On Mary’s Journey

“And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Judah; And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth” (Luke 1:39). Now Mary has conceived of the Holy Ghost, but according to Deuteronomy 22, when a man and a woman would come into the bonds of matrimony and it was found that the woman was not a virgin when she enters into that commitment, she is worthy of stoning. We know that Mary is a virgin. The Bible is very clear on that. But Mary goes to the home of a priest - the one whose duty it was to uphold the Mosaic law. And according to that law, if one was found to have broken those espousal obligations, they were worthy of stoning. She travels a peculiar course. But Mary knows there’s nothing within her that is worthy of stoning and so she goes directly to the home of her cousin Elisabeth and her husband Zacharias. When she arrives there, there is a proof from her cousin. Luke 1:41 says, “ And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” I do not find in this context that Mary has yet told Elisabeth of the conception, but Elisabeth is filled with the Holy Ghost and she knows and thus she worships. As Elisabeth sees Mary, the Bible says that John the Baptist, the babe, leaped in her womb. There is the praise of an unborn child. John starts having a spell, as we would call it in the mountains of western North Carolina! What would they have heard if they had ultrasound technology in that hour? Maybe John would have been saying what he was saying some thirty years later, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

B. By Magnifying Mary’s Joy

The annunciation given by Gabriel to Mary might be called a message of “joy to the woman.” When John the Baptist leapt inside his mother’s womb, we are confronted with “joy in the womb.” In Luke 1:46-55, we see Mary breaking into a word of praise. We might well call this her song of “joy to the world.” This has often been paralleled to Hannah’s word of praise in 1 Samuel 2. “And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name” (Luke 1:46-49).

She rejoices in God’s consideration of her, how that God has come down to where she was. And may I say with the songwriter, “When I could not come to where he was, He came to me!”

She also celebrates God’s control over humanity. “And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath showed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away” (Luke 1:50-53). God rules in the affairs of men in His mercy and in His might, in scattering the proud and in sustaining the poor!

Finally, Mary exalts God’s compassion and help that is manifested unto His own. “He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever” (Luke 1:54-55).


Even as Gabriel’s announcement to Mary is often called the “annunciation,” Mary’s words of praise in these final portions of scripture are often called the “magnificat.” These events and passages might appropriately be called by such names, but to me, and to all who have savingly benefited and believed in the Christ who came, it is truly a message of “Joy To The World!”