Back to Special Sermons

God's Wonderful Surprise!

Luke 1: 26-38

It's always a wonderful surprise to find something good in an unexpected place.
The Bible is full of experiences like that.
Usually, the something good that is found in an unexpected place, is God!

Whatever Mary was doing that day, she certainly did not expect to be confronted with a messenger from heaven.
But, suddenly, he was there!
It was the angel, Gabriel.

According to Luke, Gabriel said something like: "Congratulations! The Lord is very pleased with you."
With that Mary "was greatly troubled... and considered in her mind what sort of greeting that might be." (verse 29)

I believe that Mary knew her own national history well enough to know that being the object of God's favor could be
a rather dubious honor -- at least, from the human point of view.
In fact, as Scripture describes it, having God's favor is never a guarantee of smooth sailing through life.
The truth is, most often, it is the exact opposite.

Apparently, Mary had good reason to be troubled at Gabriel's unexpected greeting.
There are some important lessons for us in this.

Our lives are often reshaped by the unexpected intervention of God.

The Bible is quite literally the story of how God unexpectedly breaks into the lives of His people.
Isn't that also the wonder of our Christian experience?

Unexpectedly, sins are forgiven and guilt is removed.
God comes, and a whole new world of opportunities are ours. God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things!

For instance, Mary appears to be as ordinary a person as we can find anywhere in the Bible.
The entire episode with Mary is extraordinary in its ordinariness.

Many seem to think, that when God speaks, His speaking is always accompanied by loud claps of thunder,
a rushing wind, and bright flashes of lightning.
We are always looking for God in the dramatic occurrences of life. Apparently, Mary wasn't even at worship.
She was going about her everyday affairs, when God came to her.

Do you realize what that could mean for us? So, be aware and expectant, for you may be doing housework or homework, when God makes His will
and presence known to you.
Be aware, that God may intervene in your life, while you are putting together some important deal or proposal.

I believe that God makes Himself known to us, as much as He did in Biblical days.
We must be attuned to God!
There is just too much to distract us, today. God never forces His will upon us.
God always waits for our cooperation.
Isn't that amazing?

All the power of the universe is concentrated in God.
His power is so great that the human mind cannot even conceive how great.
We say that God is "omnipotent" -- which means there is no greater power in all the world.
If you combined all the power in all the world, it would never come close to the power of God.
God is all-powerful!

Yet, when it comes to you and me, our all-powerful God never forces Himself upon us.

That element of the story is not seen until the last verse of the text.
Until that point, it almost seems that everything is already set, when Gabriel appears to Mary.
"The Holy Spirit will come upon you... the power of the Most High will overshadow you." (verse 35)

In the gospel of Matthew, we have the details concerning the birth of Jesus.
The angel announces to Joseph, that Mary "shall conceive and bear a son, and you shall
call his name Jesus
." (Matthew 1: 21)
This all seems pretty definite and certain.
It doesn't appear that Mary has much say at all in it.

If we interpret what happened in that way, we miss the whole point of the text.
The point is: Mary didn't have to say "yes."
All that God proposed and the angel announced were conditional upon Mary's response.

Will she say, "yes," -- or, will she say, "no"?
Will she cooperate with God's plan, or will she tell God to find someone else?

Her response was not coerced.
It was simply and wonderfully voluntary: "Here I am, Lord. May it be done to me as you have said."

God calls us all!
He gives each one of us an opportunity to be a part of what He is doing in our world.
I know that you and I haven't been called, as Mary was, to bring the Saviour into the world.

And yet, in another sense, that is precisely what God has called us to do.
He asks that we bring Christ into our own individual world in which we live and move and have our existence.
Like Mary, we can say either "yes" or "no."

God will not force us to do what we don't want to do.
The fact is, you and I should be ready and pleased to do whatever God would have us do.

God uses ordinary people like you and me!

Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at