Luke 1:26, "And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, 'Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.' And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, 'Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 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.' Then said Mary unto the angel, 'How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?' And the angel answered and said unto her, 'The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. 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.' And Mary said, 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.' And the angel departed from her." Let us pray.
Our Father, we thank you for Mary. We thank you for the revived heart, the yielded heart that she possessed. Now Lord, would you give that to us? May we be willing to let go of sin and pride, and may we be willing to say to you, "Lord, whatever it is you want with my life you can have it"? And Father, may we present ourselves a living sacrifice this Christmas in a spirit of revival is my prayer, in Jesus' name. Amen. You may be seated.
Well, one of the great things about revival is that you do not need a whole bunch of people to have revival. You don't need a whole bunch of organization. You don't need a whole lot of money to have revival. You can have revival with one single person who is passionately seeking God. Revival can come to any person in this room who wants to experience what it really means to walk with God and to have revival in the Lord. In fact, today we're going to see the life of one woman, a woman totally yielded to God, a woman whose life was so revived, so refreshed, and so full of grace, that when God determined to bring his Son into the world he chose this woman, totally yielded unto him.
Flory Evans was a teenage girl who lived in Wales in the late 1800s and early 1900s. And she was a woman, a young woman, that prayed for revival in her community. As a teenager, her teacher in class once asked Flory and all of the other students, "What does Jesus mean to you?" and she quietly replied, "I love the Lord Jesus with all of my heart."
Flory and her Sunday school teacher began to pray for revival in Wales. They began to ask God to change hearts and to save souls; and as they prayed for revival God began to move in a very unusual way. People began to join them in prayer; and sometimes the coalminers, after they got off work at 5:00 or 6:00 at night, they would pray all the way through the night until 4:00 and 5:00 in the morning, go home, have a bite to eat, and go right back to work, asking God to bring revival. And between 1904 and 1905 in the little country of Wales there were over 150,000 people who trusted Jesus Christ as their Savior. One out of every 13 people in the country became a Christian because a teenage girl loved the Lord her God with all of her heart. Revival can come to any single person.
Now Luke's gospel is an amazing survey of the life of Jesus. Luke tells us that he wrote this gospel based upon what he said, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, were many eyewitness accounts. In fact, it is very likely that Luke interviewed Mary personally, so that what we are reading today was from the testimony of Mary personally sharing what she had experienced when she met the angel Gabriel. Like us, Mary had a lot of questions. Mary really wondered what was going on; and yet we see in her life a woman who yielded completely over to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now revival doesn't come to the elite. It doesn't have to come to someone who grew up in three generations of Christian families. Revival can come to anyone; and Mary tells us that very clearly. You see, she was a common girl. She grew up in what we would call a little farm town maybe, Nazareth. It was a town of about 100 people. They only had one well in Nazareth. It was somewhat of a stopping off point for the Roman military. And it was not a place of renowned, but it was the place where she lived. And she had a heart totally for God, dedicated to the Lord.
I have learned that great works of God rarely start in big places with big people, great works for God are done where people have a hungering and a thirsting for God. A place is not judged by its institutions or advantages, but by the righteous people that live in that place.
Take Lancaster, for example. Lancaster is not necessarily a famous place, but this has been a place where some of us have said, "Lord, use us; and we surrender our lives to you." And I believe that if we'll have a spirit of surrender like that, that God can do something great in a very common place if we would have a heart of surrender for the Lord." Well, I want you to see what God did in Mary's life, and I want you to do what I've done this week and say, "Lord, do this in my life. Help me to have a heart that Mary had."
Notice as we look into the Scriptures a heavenly appearance. The Bible tells us in verse 26, "In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth." I want to see that this angel was sent by God, this heavenly angel named Gabriel. We do not often have the names of angels in the Bible, but this one angel is mentioned many times.
And in fact, Gabriel had come six months prior to Zacharias to prophesy the birth of John the Baptist. And Gabriel had come 550 years prior to this to a prophet named Daniel, and he had given to Daniel a message that Jesus Christ would come, and he gave a prophecy known in Daniel 9 as the 70 weeks prophecy concerning the exact date that Jesus Christ would be born. And so it was fulfilled. So Gabriel gave the time of the birth of Christ 500 years before Jesus was born, and now he's coming just months before Jesus would be born and telling Mary that this was the plan of God. It was a heavenly experience. It was a tremendous appearance by this angel Gabriel sent by God.
But notice, secondly, he was sent to Mary. This was a very specific message and a very specific person. Verse 27 says, "To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David."
Now I want you to take note about Mary. I want you to notice, first of all, she was a pure woman. The Bible tells us that she was a virgin, and throughout the Scriptures and in particular in the King James Version of the Bible, you'll find great care to protect the doctrine known as the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ.
For example, in Matthew 1:18 the Bible says, "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: when as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph." And so we see the Bible very clearly letting us know they were engaged or espoused, they were in the betrothal period, but they had not consummated this marriage, that she was a virgin, that she had not known a man. And that is obviously very significant, because Jesus Christ was not the son of some man, but he would be the Son of God. And so she was chosen as a very pure vessel.
Isaiah 7:14 prophesied this. The Bible says there, "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."
So Mary was a pure woman. Mary was also a prepared woman, for the Bible says in verse 27 that she was of the house of David, that she was of the house and lineage of David. And we'll see later on in the message this was also prophesied. And so what we see in these verses is that God's plan is unfolding, and that God had a pure woman in Mary and a prepared woman from a particular lineage of the Hebrew nation that had been prepared by God.
But then also I want you to see that Mary was a preferred woman. I want you to see that in verse 28. It says, "And the angel came in unto her, and said, 'Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee."
So here was a woman highly favoured. This phrase "highly favoured" means that she was greatly graced. She was a woman of grace. It was very obvious that God was on her life. She was a woman no doubt that was not given to gossip. She was not given to harsh words. She was able to take and absorb situations in life. How do we know that? Because she was a gracious woman.
I'm thankful for the many gracious women at Lancaster Baptist Church, women who are highly favoured, women that you can sense the Lord in their life. And I would say to us as men and women, that all of us should have a desire to be gracious, to walk in the grace of the Lord, so that people could see our lives and say, "You know, there's something different about that person. That person responds to trials, that person's responding to harshness differently than others. They are highly graced. There's something very graceful and gracious about them."
I believe Mary was the epitome of a gracious and a godly woman. In fact, it tells us in this passage in verse 28, "Blessed art thou among women." Now it does not say "above women," as is the tradition of the Roman Church. We do not pray to Mary. We do not believe that Mary is a mediator in our prayers. Jesus is our mediator. Nevertheless it says that she was highly favoured among women, and that she was blessed among women. And so we see that this heavenly appearance came from the angel Gabriel to a very specific and favoured and graceful woman named Mary. And all of us can learn about revival from Mary, as we grow in the grace of our Lord.
But notice, secondly, this morning, there was a prepared announcement. Gabriel comes before Mary, but he brings a message, and the message is very surprising. In fact, notice, it was a surprising truth in verse 29: "And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be."
Now imagine her heart. By the way, how many of you would just say, "It would be troubling enough just to see an angel"? How many of you are with me on that? I mean, just to see an angel, that would trouble me a little bit. I mean, I'm sure it'd be awesome and exciting, but just right at first it might be kind of amazing. And then to hear the message that she heard, it was an amazing moment, a surprising truth.
I heard about a woman named Leslie Emmerson, and Leslie had always been very, very much an avid texter. She always texted her children, she texted her grandchildren, she was just known for being a texter. And so when she passed away, they actually took her phone and put it right inside the casket with her. They put her phone in there, they just thought that'd be a tribute for mom, you know, kind of put it in there.
But her granddaughter Sherry missed her an awful lot. And so Sherry coped with her grief by texting her grandmother; and as she texted her, she would text her along the lines, and she would just say things like, "Sure miss you, Grandma. Sure love you," and things of this nature. And one day she received a text back and it said, "I'm watching over you, you will get through this; it will be all right."
And she saw that text and it startled her, she didn't really know what to do. Finally after she was initially shocked, she realized and later found out that her grandmother's number had been reassigned to someone else. Now I don't know about you, but that might freak me out a little bit to get a text from somebody that I thought had already gone up to heaven, you know.
And there's certain things that surprise us. And no doubt, Mary was shocked at this particular situation. She was even troubled in her heart. But notice what Gabriel says to Mary in verse 29. It says as she asked, "What manner of salutation this should be?" Verse 30, "And the angel said unto her, 'Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God."
Now look at these words "fear not." You'll find these words often in the Bible. You know, sometimes in life we are shocked. It may be a medical diagnosis. It may be something with our family. It may be someone just walks out of our life and something we're not expecting. And yet God's message is often the same: "Fear not." In fact, in 1 John 4:18, the Bible says, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear."
So I want to ask you a question this morning. How many of you believe that God loves you? Do you believe that this morning? And this is what Gabriel was saying, saying, "Mary, Mary, fear not." Perfect love casts out fear.
I don't know about you, but I'm sure like me you love your children, you love your grandchildren. You don't want them to have fear, you want them to know the assurance of that love. And God wants you to know the assurance of his love.
And so, here Gabriel says, "Mary, don't fear this. This is not going to be a bad thing, this is going to be a great thing. God has a purpose for this in your life." And it was certainly a surprising truth. But I want you to know, secondly, it was a saving truth. This was the truth that would save Mary's soul. This was the truth that saves our soul, that God became a man and dwelt among us, and that we beheld his glory as of the only begotten of the Father.
Verse 31, "And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. And 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."
Now would you notice this wonderful truth. We are told that Mary would conceive, and that she would conceive a son, verse 31, whose name is Jesus. And the word "Jesus" means Jehovah is our Savior.
Isaiah 43:11, "I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour. I have declared, and have saved, I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses," saith the Lord, "that I am God.
You see, there is none other name given under heaven whereby we must be saved, and that name is Jesus Christ. And so, Mary would conceive a child, and his name would be called Jesus. Mary would conceive, but Jesus would save. And this is what we read in verse 31: "Thou shalt call his name Jesus."
How many of you are thankful that Jesus saves? Amen. The Bible says in Matthew 1:20, "But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, 'Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.'" That's what Jesus came to do, he came to be a Saviour to save his people from their sin.
Now I don't know what's going on in American culture, but it seems like everybody's afraid of the name of Jesus Christ. Boy, they'll talk about religion, and spiritual things, and they'll talk about all these things, but they don't want to talk about Jesus Christ. And that hit a new pinnacle this week when a school principal in Nebraska at an elementary school, called the Manchester Elementary School, sent out a decree to all of the teachers that in their holiday celebrations and in their winter solstice celebrations, that they were not allowed to pass out candy canes.
Now you've heard of the banning of the name of Jesus; but no candy canes. So just to show what a rebel I am, I brought one to church this morning. I'm not telling you a story, you can look this up probably on Fox News, or Google it: Nebraska school principal decreed no candy canes. And this was her reason; she said, "We don't want candy canes, because if you turn a candy cane upside-down, the letter J stands for Jesus."
Now isn't that dangerous for the children, that they might possess an upside-down candy cane? She went on to say that some people believe that the red in the candy cane represents the blood of Jesus Christ, and the white represents the purity of Jesus Christ, and we just can't be spreading these types of things. By the way, I was kind of glad she told her whole staff what it stands for.
People are afraid of Jesus: they're afraid of the name Jesus, they're afraid of talking about Jesus. But I want to tell you this morning, I love Jesus, I'm thankful for Jesus. I love the name Jesus, it is a name that is above every other name. And don't you dare go to the mall and be ashamed of the name of Jesus or settle for saying, "Happy holidays." You look somebody right back in the eye and tell them, "Merry Christmas, and God bless you," because Jesus is the reason we are here this morning. It's all about Jesus this month. And this is the saving truth of it all, "that Jesus came to save sinners, of whom I am chief," the apostle Paul said.
Many years ago, maybe four or five, six years ago, there was a young family in Los Angeles. They had a little daughter named Anissa Ayala of Los Angeles. Her parents were 42 and 44 when she was born. But she was born with a very bad disease and she needed a bone marrow transplant, and there was no transplant to be found. And so the doctor said to her parents, "There's one long shot. If you have another baby, it's possible that from that child we can take the bone marrow transplant and we can save Anissa."
And so they had a second child named Marissa. And even though there was only a 25 percent chance, Marissa able at 14 months to give bone marrow so that her sister Anissa could be saved. And when I read that story I thought to myself, "That's not the first time a baby was born to be a savior. The first time was in Bethlehem's manger."
Jesus was born to be a Savior for you and for me. It's a surprising truth indeed, but it's a saving truth: Jesus came to save. And not only that, it's a securing truth. I find great security in the name of Jesus.
Notice in verse 32, the Bible says, "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."
Now I say to you this morning there is security in the name of Jesus Christ. There are over 200 names for Jesus in the Bible, but there's just something about that name: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. There's something about that name. It is a name that is above every other name. And at that name every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. And I find security in that name, and I pray in that name. And we ask God for deliverance through that name, and for healing through that name, and for power through the name of Jesus Christ.
There's security in the name of Jesus, and there's also security in the coming rule of Jesus. Notice in verse 33 again, it says, "He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever."
Now when Jesus came the first time, he did not come as a king to reign, he came as a babe born in Bethlehem's manger, he lived a perfect life, and of course, he came unto his own and his own, say it with me, "received him not." His own received him not. But he will come again, and he will reign over the house of Jacob; and this was prophesied in 2 Samuel 7:12, "And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever." God said, "David, this throne is going to be a forever throne, and I'm going to make that happen. There is going to come one who will follow through and establish the Davidic throne, and of his kingdom there shall be no end."
And so, we see a heavenly appearance, the angel Gabriel coming to Mary. We hear a prepared announcement, "There's a purpose, Mary. You will give birth to Jesus, the Saviour of the world."
But notice, finally, a godly acceptance, a godly acceptance. And here we find revival. Here in this still moment of the Christmas story, not with the band playing, not with the tambourine-hitting, not with people coming in in mass crowds. We do not find Mary's revival in that context. We find revival in this solitary young farm girl.
Notice in verse 34, Mary says to the angel, "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" She's trying to comprehend what she has just heard, and she is told that it will be by way of a supernatural conception.
Verse 35, notice this verse, "And the angel answer and said unto her, 'The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.'"
Here we see a supernatural conception: a child will be produced without a human father. This is something that no science lab can accomplish. This is something that only God can accomplish, that there would be a child born of supernatural means. The Holy Ghost would overshadow Mary; this would be a form of divine anesthesia. She would come under an influence that was not of this world and she would conceive of the Holy Ghost. And Mary is wondering, and Gabriel simply explains it this way in verse 37, "For with God nothing shall be impossible."
Gabriel explains to Mary what I need to hear sometimes, and what you need to hear, because sometimes we look at our country, and sometimes we look at our problems and we go, "What's the answer to all of this?" And Mary needed what we need also: "With God nothing shall be impossible. With God all things are possible." It was a supernatural conception.
But I want you to see this revived woman as a submissive maiden. Notice, if you would, in verse 38. The Bible says in verse 38, "And Mary said, 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to they word.' And the angel departed from her."
Here we see a picture of revival, total surrender, total yieldedness to the Lord, not holding onto sin, not holding onto her agenda, not arguing with God, but relinquishing to God; not saying, "But God, I don't like this situation, and I don't think Joseph will understand. And I don't like it out here in Nazareth. And I don't want to live in California, and I don't have the job that I have," and arguing with God.
Instead she says, "Be it unto me according to thy word." Totally yielded to God. Not anxious, not frustrated; contented and peaceful as only Mary could be in that very moment. "Be it unto me according to thy word." Would you say those words with me? "Be it unto me according to thy word." One more time, "Be it unto me according to they word."
Ladies, "Be it unto me according to they word." Men, "Be it unto me according to they word." Something like Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane when he said, "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not my will, but Thine be done." You see, Andrew Murray said it this way: "God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life that is wholly yielded to him."
You say, "Pastor, if I totally yielded to God my friends would think I'm weird. I mean, my friends could accept kind of a rock-and-roll Jesus kind of a thing. But if I really, just really sold out for God, they'd think I'm really weird. Pastor, if I started like witnessing to people, if I yielded to the Lord like to be missionary or something, people would just think that's weird. I'm kind of looking for that kind of a Christian life that kind of fits in with other people that aren't even really saved." But Mary said, "God, this doesn't have to be on my terms. I want this to be how you want it. So, Lord, be it unto me according to thy word."
There's a young man in our church, his name is John Tanner, and his dad has been a member here for 30 years. John's 29, and he's down at Loma Linda Hospital today. He's a highway patrol officer, he graduated from our high school. And right while we're sitting here, John is waiting for some results on some tests that have been made on him. He'll have a biopsy I think this afternoon as well. And he's had a rough month in the hospital; they're just really struggling to get the diagnosis, and there's a lot of concern.
And I had prayer with John at the hospital Wednesday and spent some time there, then I've been kind of texting him. And yesterday I texted him, I just said, "John, I'm praying for ya." And John texted back these words to me: "Pastor, the outcome is God's responsibility, obedience is my responsibility. The outcome is God's responsibility, obedience is my responsibility."
You know, there's times as a pastor you see someone do something dumb or sinful, and you go, "What in the world?" and, "How could we have done better?" I think we all have those disappointments. But then there's times like this and you go, "Wow, there's something going on in John's heart."
John has grown, and to express, "The outcome is God's responsibility, obedience is mine," this is the heart of revival. "Lord, I just want to come before you and I want to be obedient to you. Lord I just want to give you my heart, and whatever it is that you're asking from me, that's what I want to be willing to do."
So I have two questions for you this morning, and here they are. First: "In what way today do you need to yield to the Lord? In what way this morning do you need to say, 'Lord, be it unto me according to your word. Lord, if I need to lay aside sin, if I need to accept some responsibility, if you're wanting me to serve, if you're wanting me to witness; if Mary gave her body as a living sacrifice to you, Lord, then Lord, how can you use me to serve you? And, Lord, I'm willing to lay aside my best laid plans.'"
I get so tickled hearing people's plans sometimes: "This is the tax rate there. This is the way it'll work here. This is the way I'll do this. God, I have a Plan A, B and C." And sometimes we need to say, "Lord, I'm just going to set all that to the side and say, 'Lord, be it unto me according to your word.'" What is it today that you need to stop and say, "Lord, be it unto me according to your word"? And just lay it out there before him like Mary did.
My second question to you: "Are you ready to see the Lord face to face someday?" Because that's why he came. He came to save us from our sin. He knew that we could not save ourselves, and so he came to shed his blood on the cross; and that blood was not the blood of just some man, that blood is the blood of God through the Holy Spirit. When he shed his blood, it was a perfect sacrifice for our sin.
That's why Jesus said, "I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, there you may be also." And the only way to have that forgiveness and that home in heaven is by trusting in the Savior. And there is none other name given under heaven whereby we must be saved. There is one Savior and his name is Jesus Christ. And have you accepted Christ as your Savior? You see, Jesus came to earth so that we could have a home in heaven; that's what this is all about. Jesus came down here, so that one day we can go up there to be with him.
George H. W. Bush was a wonderful president and a tremendous man who began his life, early in life, his career in the Air Force, and he embraced a philosophy of life from his years rather in the Navy as a Navy pilot. He embraced a philosophy of life with an acronym CAVU. CAVU stands for ceiling and visibility unlimited, ceiling and visibility unlimited. And he often used that acronym when he talked to young people about their service for the country. He said, "The ceiling and visibility is unlimited."
He often talked about CAVU. And that was especially important to World War II pilots, because they didn't have all the instrumentation and avionics that we have today. They really appreciated ceiling and visibility unlimited. They wanted to fly in a clear sky; that was a gift to them when they could see clearly.
And so it was no surprise when he died this past week at age 94 that the message sent out to the family was this simple acronym: CAVU, ceiling and visibility unlimited, meaning our father is in heaven now. The ceiling and visibility is unlimited. And when you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, the ceiling and visibility is unlimited, because to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
Make sure, my friend, that you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
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