This Gospel Reading is not the Annunciation itself. That event was when Gabriel appeared to the Blessed Virgin Mary and told her that she would bear the Christ Child. But the Gospel from Saint Matthew, chapter one, is Saint Joseph’s side of the story.
Why do we have this Reading on Annunciation? Why celebrate the Annunciation at all during Lent? Besides the answer that the historic day for observing this event is on this day, there is also the answer that the Annunciation touches upon key themes of the Lenten season.
The Collect of the Day says, “O Lord, as we have known the incarnation of Your Son, Jesus Christ, by the message of the angel to the virgin Mary, so by the message of His cross and passion bring us to the glory of His resurrection.” Notice how the Collect directs us toward the suffering and death of Christ for us. The Annunciation is not an event that has nothing to do with Good Friday. On the contrary, it was for Good Friday that the Annunciation happened. He became flesh to lay that flesh down in death. He took on nerve endings so that they could feel agony. He took heart and veins full of blood so that He could shed it for us. He took a human body and soul so that He could be the fitting substitute for mankind’s sin.
Here we must deal with the difficulty of the virgin birth. I do not say difficulty because it is difficult for the all-powerful God to accomplish. I say it is difficult because man’s human reason, flawed by sin, cannot accept the virgin birth. Far easier for man is denial or dismissal as if it were a myth.
But we might try to give God advice. “God, do you think you could send the Savior in a different way than the virgin birth? That event is too hard for unbelievers to accept. Maybe they would be more inclined to trust Christianity if it did not have such a difficult hurdle.”
Sure, we don’t actually give God advice this way. But we still might find the virgin birth a little embarrassing. We might fail to mention it on occasions when it ought to be mentioned. We might not press it too hard with new believers, as if we do not want them to get offended. Does it really matter if people believe it?
God felt it was important enough to put in His holy Word, so yes, it matters. It has been steadfastly confessed by the Church from her earliest days in her creeds. We are faithful members of the same Church if we confess the same.
Joseph had trouble with this. Clearly, he did not think that virgin births happen every day, and he is right. Yet he, when the Word and command of God was made known to him, obeyed and trusted.
God grant the same trusting spirit to us.
Why the virgin birth? Scripture does not directly answer that question. We can reasonably assume that, for God’s Son to be born, it had to happen without the help of an earthly father, and thus be sinless. We do not exactly know this, since Scripture does not say it. Could Christ have been conceived and born some other way? Did He even have to be born? Could He simply assume human nature without having a parent? Scripture does not explicitly say for certain.
But we know that He came to live a human life like ours in every way except sin. Could Christ have lived a life just like ours yet not be born and not have parents? It seems not. Yet He did not have to have an earthly, biological father as we do, and that does not get in the way of Him being the holy Son of God. So we really do not know much.
This we know: That Christ was conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin, as Scripture clearly teaches. Although it does not say the purpose of being born of the Virgin, it does say that the reason He was to be named Jesus was because He will save His people from their sins.
Who are His people? Objectively speaking, we would say that all people are His. He voluntarily chose to be one of the human race. Thus He atoned for all sins of the whole world. More specifically, we could say that His people are the Jews. Yet all who have faith are children of Abraham, so even Gentiles to whom faith is given receive the benefits of Christ’s atonement.
Bottom line: Christ died for your sins. You need not wonder whether maybe you were not one of the people whom He saves. Atonement is for all people, and you are part of the group called, “all people.”
He took a human body so that He could pay the price for you and all mankind. His Name was predetermined to be Jesus, because that is the precious Name apart from which there is no name by which you can be saved. Only the Virgin-born saves sinners.
So God did this thing right. Although we do not understand all the ins and outs of it, we know that Christ being born of Mary in this way was the right way to send the Savior. We know that the way He lived His life was right in every way. We know that His submission to suffering for us was exactly the right thing to save us.
So the Annunciation happened because God wanted His Son to experience Good Friday. Although He did not want His Son to suffer, He was willing to pay that price, as Christ also was willing to submit to His Father’s will.
He knew all of this before He said to His Father, “Yes, I will be born of a virgin.” He knew long before, so that even prophets centuries before wrote it down. He saw all that He would suffer. Yet He obeyed and followed that most difficult path that leads to our salvation.
Therefore Christ is Immanuel, God with us. He lived our life, and still abides with us who have faith. He will not abandon us whom He has made His people. He will be with always, even until the end of the world, as well as after its end, to all eternity. Amen.
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