The Annunciation of Our Lord
St. Luke 1.26-38
And Was Made Man
Seminarian Andrew Keller, Vicar
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Today, we observe the Annunciation of Our Lord, a festival that seems out of place in the middle of Lent. It is a festival that evokes thoughts of Christmas though it is nine months away. Yet, Lent and Christmas are perfectly connected. Without one, there would not be the other, nor would we have Holy Week, the Passion, or Easter. One cannot claim to belong to the Christian faith if one does not confess the Incarnation and the Atonement. For on this day, our Lord was incarnate in the womb of Mary, that in the flesh, He could shed His blood and die to atone for the sins of the world.
The angel came to the Virgin Mary, saying, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” The Messiah would be born through the woman. The problem? Mary was a virgin. She and her betrothed, Joseph had not yet come together. Yet, this is exactly how the Son of God was to be born, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Jesus, true God, begotten from the Father from eternity, was conceived of the Holy Spirit and made true man in the Virgin’s womb. The infinite was incarnate in the finite. By faith, Mary received these tidings from the angel and she became the mother of God in the person of Jesus Christ.
How can it be that God is also man? Is He half-God and half-man? These were some of the questions which arose from the early church, and they caused many rifts. Rather than receiving and accepting the mystery of the incarnation like Mary, heretics arose and tried to comprehend using their limited and flawed human logic. One such heretic, Arius, began teaching Jesus was not truly God, which diminishes simultaneously the incarnation and the atonement. The Athanasian Creed, named after St. Athanasius, was written as a response to this heresy, and is useful in parsing out how Jesus is true God and true man. Line 27ff says, “It is also necessary for everlasting salvation that one faithfully believe the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is the right faith that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is at the same time both God and man. He is God, begotten from the substance of the Father before all ages; and He is man, born from the substance of His mother in this age: perfect God and perfect man, composed of a rational soul and human flesh; equal to the Father with respect to His divinity, less than the Father with respect to His humanity… (and later) For as the rational soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ, who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead, ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from whence He will come to judge the living and the dead.”
True church doctrine emphasized the intimate hand that God has in our salvation. Jesus had to be born in our flesh to die for us. He walked among His people, yet was not received by them. They turned Him over to be killed. He suffered in our flesh, bled in our flesh, died in our flesh. He was born to die. He had to have our flesh in order to bleed for us, as Hebrews 9:22 says, “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Jesus in true flesh and blood died as the atoning sacrifice for our sins and the sins of the whole world, abolishing the need for the old sacrificial system. The Epistle reading, Hebrews 10 states, “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, He said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book’…He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all.” Jesus has done away with the first covenant, which is the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, and has established a new covenant in His body and blood given and shed for the forgiveness of sins.
Our world will say the body doesn’t matter. It says you can do with it as you please, whether mutilating it or killing a child through abortion. But this is the furthest thing from the truth. God made man and woman in His image and called them very good. He sent His Son, Jesus, born of the virgin Mary, to suffer, die and be buried in our flesh. Through the resurrection and ascension, Christ sanctified the body. We do not seek to shed the physical form to become spiritual beings. We too will be raised up in the flesh. When Jesus comes again, our bodies will never again be subjected to decay, plague or disease. Instead, we will be made whole again as St. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15, “So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory…Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.”
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.