Speaking from Luke 1:26–38, Dr. Jim Denison discusses the courage of Mary after she was told she would be the mother of Jesus. That story is why March 25, the day on which this video was recorded, was once considered New Year’s Day and is now celebrated as Annunciation Day in many Christian traditions.
But why does that matter today?
Because, when you become a Christian and Christ lives within you, you have the power of Jesus to fulfill the purpose of Jesus so that you might be a partner with Jesus.
An adapted transcript follows.
Why was March 25 once New Year’s Day?
Happy New Year!
Why am I wishing you a happy New Year on March 25?
If you were a Christian living in Europe a thousand years or so ago, you wouldn’t be asking that question. For them, March 25 was the first day of the new year. How did that happen?
Most of us are familiar with dating history around the birth of Jesus. We’re familiar with BC, or “Before Christ,” and AD, “Anno Domini,” which means the “year of our Lord.” In theory, Jesus was born on December 25, which is more of a tradition than a historical fact. If he was born on December 25, he would have been conceived nine months earlier, or March 25. That would be the date when he actually entered the human race. That’s when the Incarnation would have been.
So if history starts with the birth of Jesus, then the calendar should start with the conception of Jesus.
The purpose of this article is not to debate the calendar, but to discuss what actually happened on the day, whenever it was, that Jesus entered the human race through his conception with Mary,
Mary’s courage in her calling
Luke tells us the story of Mary in Chapter 1. Her courage as she accepts the call to become God’s servant is our model today in our post-Christian, some would even say anti-Christian, culture.
The story begins: “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary” (vv. 26-27).
Nazareth was a town in Jesus’ day so small it’s not mentioned even once in the Old Testament, nor by the historian Josephus. Tradition is that Mary either grew up in Nazareth, or in the town of Sepphoris, which is close. It’s a rural setting, or what we would think of as a country setting in that day and time.
It was typical for the parents of a daughter to arrange for her marriage to a man when she reached marriageable age. Then when she reached childbearing years, probably around thirteen to fifteen years of age, she would be engaged and, sometime later, they would actually marry. This happened at a young age because infant mortality rates were really high at that time.
The story continues as an angel appeared to Mary: “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you! She was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (vv. 28–31).
The angel continues: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God 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” (vv. 32–33).
What the angel was saying is that her unborn child will be the Messiah, the Savior, the one to continue the line of David. Mary says to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin? (v. 34). She’s not yet married to Joseph. She’s had no sexual relations to this point in her life.
The angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” Mary’s courage was displayed in her answer: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (vv. 35–38).
What is she risking by her response? At the very least, she’s risking her marriage. When it is made known she is pregnant, Joseph will know this child is not his and assume that she has been unfaithful to him.
It would not occur to him that she is the virgin mother of the Son of God. Would that occur to you if your daughter or granddaughter became pregnant out of marriage? Would it occur to you that she is still a virgin and this is the Son of God that she is going to bear? Of course not. And so she is at the very least risking her marriage.
Joseph has two choices: he can divorce her privately or he can divorce her publicly and bring her before the town and condemn her as an adulteress, meaning she could be stoned to death. And that’s what she’s risking. We know that Joseph, being a righteous man, decides to divorce her privately (Matthew 1:19).
The angel who appeared to Mary also appears to Joseph and tells him that Mary will bear the Son of God. Joseph decides to take her to be his wife. When Mary made her bold declaration, she has no realistic reason to believe that Joseph will marry her. She knows she is likely to become a single mother in a day when single women had very few means of supporting themselves or their children born out of wedlock. She didn’t know that the angel would appear to Joseph and that Joseph would do as the angel said, or that she would have a husband to support her and her child.
Jesus’ incarnation in every believer
Now, how does that act of courage relate to us in this culture today?
The fact is, strange as it is to say, March 25, Annunciation Day, as it’s celebrated in many Christian traditions even today, happened to you and me as well.
When we ask Jesus to be our Savior, to forgive our sins and be Lord of our lives, the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 3 that the Holy Spirit comes to live in us and our bodies become the temple of the Holy Spirit (v. 16).
Jesus spoke of being born again. The Bible says you became a new creation, the old is gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). So in a very real sense, the same Jesus who was incarnated in Mary has been incarnated in you and me. That’s why the Bible calls us the body of Christ. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would come and continue the ministry of Jesus in us and through us.
On September 9, 1973, when I asked Jesus to be my Savior and Lord, I experienced a March 25 Annunciation Day. That’s the day that Jesus became incarnate in me by the power of the Holy Spirit. If you’ve asked him to be your Savior and Lord, you’ve had that same experience as well.
How does that relate to courage as we follow Jesus?
You have the power of Jesus
You and I have the power of Jesus today, to fulfill the purpose of Jesus as the partners of Jesus.
What does that mean in our world today?
First of all, we have the power of Jesus living in us because the Holy Spirit of God lives in us. That’s why Paul could say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). That’s why he could say, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Paul could speak of “Christ in you the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
The exact same power that calmed stormy seas, that healed blind eyes and raised dead bodies, now lives in us. Christ in us, the hope of glory. We actually have the power of Jesus living in us as the body of Christ.
But there’s a catch, which brings us to the second point.
You can fulfill the purpose of Jesus
The power of Jesus is intended to fulfill the purpose of Jesus through the body of Christ.
We are now the hands and the feet and the eyes and the ears of Jesus (1 Corinthians 12). Our purpose on earth is to continue his ministry. We’re here to share the gospel just as he did. We’re here to meet needs just as he did. We are here to do what Jesus did, to be the visible manifestation of the continuing ministry of Jesus. Today, right now. That’s our purpose.
Whatever your vocation is, however the world sees you, your real vocation is to be the body of Christ and to continue the ministry of Jesus. You’re a missionary to your culture. You might be masquerading as a businessperson, as a teacher, as a homemaker, or as a cultural apologist in my case, but your real vocation is to be the body of Christ to continue the purpose of Jesus on earth.
And that leads to that third point.
You are a partner with Jesus
Because Jesus lives in us, because March 25 has happened to us, we have the power of God to fulfill the purpose of God as the partners of God.
Don’t miss the fact that Mary had to agree to what the angel asked her to do. The Lord honors the freedom he gives us. The Bible tells us Jesus stands at the door and knocks, and if we open the door he’ll come in and sup with us (Revelation 3:20). We are called to be partners with Jesus, to partner with him in accomplishing his purpose in his power.
That’s a decision we have to make at the beginning of every single day by asking the Holy Spirit to fill and control us (Ephesians 5:18). Climb off the throne and put him on the throne. Surrender your day to him. Surrender your plans to him. Pray through your day. Ask him to be in charge, to lead you, to empower you, to use you. As you walk through the day, see yourself as the partner of Jesus.
I’m partnering with Jesus right now, in this conversation. Before I began speaking, I prayed for the Lord to anoint me and speak through me. I’ve said things I didn’t plan to say. I’m asking Jesus by the power of his Spirit, to speak through me to you even right now.
Pray for the Lord to partner with you through these words. Partner with him in all that you do through the day. When you face a challenge, pray about it. Every opportunity, pray about it. If you fall into temptation, ask the Lord to forgive you and restore you, empower you again, and put you back in his purpose again.
Walk through the day as the partner of Jesus to fulfill the purpose of Jesus in the power of Jesus, knowing that as you work, God works.
This is how Jesus continues his ministry today. And in this context, every day is March 25. Every day is Annunciation Day. That day, when Jesus again, by the power of his Spirit incarnates himself in us, if we will have the courage of Mary to say to the Lord, “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
When was the last time you told the Lord “I am the servant of the Lord”? When will be the next time? Will it be right now?
That’s my prayer for you and for me today.