Luke 1:26
We now enter upon another announcement, more wonderful still than that about John. It is the announcement about the advent of him who is indeed "the Beginning of the creation of God" (Revelation 3:14). A deeper interest should gather round it than attaches to the beginning of the material universe. Both begin in mystery, but happily we see the mystery by the eye of faith safely lodged in the hand of God. Genesis gives to us the mysterious origin of the ordinary creation, and Luke gives to us the mysterious origin of the extraordinary creation of which Jesus is the real Head.

I. WE SHALL NOTICE THE SCENE OF THIS ANGEL-VISIT. We saw Gabriel last in the temple, holding intercourse beyond the first veil with Zacharias as he offered the incense. He was in "the holy place," on the threshold of "the holy of holies." But now, by way of contrast, he repairs to Nazareth, that city of Galilee so hidden in the hills that all who for various reasons needed a hiding-place resorted thither. It was a rendezvous for the worst of people, and became proverbial as the one place out of which no good thing need be expected (John 1:46). It was here the angel of mercy made his way to carry good tidings to one in whose veins was the blood of kings. The house of David had fallen indeed on evil days when its lineal representative was to be found in a virgin betrothed to the village carpenter. Meanwhile let us comfort ourselves with the thought that angel-visits, though reputedly few and far between, are not confined to temple-courts or palaces of earthly kings. The lowliest of situations and the lowliest hearts may be honored by a messenger from heaven.

II. THE MESSAGE GABRIEL BROUGHT. Having sought and found the virgin who was espoused to Joseph, he first addressed to her a remarkable salutation. He salutes her as one who is

(1) "highly favored" (κεχαριτωμένη) that is, the object of special favor from God; and

(2) as one enjoying God's special presence - "The Lord is with thee." The other clause, "Blessed art thou among women," seems to be transferred from the subsequent salutation of Elisabeth (verse 42; and cf. Revised Version). It was a very gracious assurance Gabriel brought to Mary. She needed all the support it gave her in her present trying position. The immediate effect upon her mind was fear. She is troubled at the unexpected apparition. But it led her to deep thoughtfulness. It has been well said that praise comes as a surprise to the meek, but as a right, or rather less than a right, to the proud.

(2) Mary was thrown by her fear into anxious thought as to what particular good fortune could be hers. Her idea was that she deserved nothing, and so she could the more thoroughly appreciate whatever came. What a relish Divine favor would be if we had Mary's meekness! Gabriel now bids her no longer to fear, since she has found favor with God, and her good fortune is to consist g t in this - that she is to be the mother of an everlasting Monarch. But we must pause over Gabriel's message.

1. The name of her Son is to be Jesus. That is, he is to be a Savior of men from sin (cf. Matthew 1:21). The world has had Joshuas in abundance, captains of invasion, but only one Jesus as a Savior from the curse and power of sin.

2. He is to be great. And assuredly, if moral influence and genius constitute the highest greatness, Jesus has no equal among the sons of men.

3. He is to be called the Son of the Highest. God is to be his Father in a special sense. This does not refer to his "Eternal Sonship," but to his human sonship. He is to stand to God in the relation of son to father, so far as his human nature is concerned. Mary is thus to be the mother of God's Son.

4. He is to succeed to the throne of his father David. Now, are we to understand this of a succession to a world-kingdom, and a "personal reign" over the Jews? If this be the meaning, then this reign is still to come, for through the rejection of Messiah this kingship was prevented. And so some interpret this (cf. Godet, in loc.). But our Lord's own words about the unworldliness of his kingdom seem to set this idea at rest. He came to be King over a spiritual kingdom. Now, David, we should remember, was a great ecclesiastical reformer. He exercised commanding influence in the church as well as State of his time; and he realized his vice-gerency under God. Jesus succeeds David upon the spiritual lines which were the chief lines of David's influence as king.

5. His reign and kingdom are to be everlasting. His is to be no dying dynasty, but an everlasting rule. Emperors and kings have come and gone, and left their glory behind them; but this Son of Mary commands more influence every year, and knows no decline. The kingdoms of the world run a longer or shorter course; but Christ's kingdom outlasts them all. Such a message was fitted to overwhelm an ordinary mind. Mary is to be the mother of a new King, and he is never to be uncrowned - an everlasting Monarch! Surely an ordinary head would be turned by such tidings as these.

III. HOW MARY TAKES THE MESSAGE. She is so meek that her head is not turned. She is in amazement certainly, but there is calm dignity and purity in her reply.

1. She asks how such a birth is to come about since she is a virgin? This was not the inquiry of a doubter, but of a believer. She wanted direction. Was she to go on with her proposed marriage with Joseph? or was she to break with him? or was she to do nothing but wait? Gabriel directs her to wait passively in God's hands, and all he has promised will come supernaturally about. Just as the Spirit overshadowed the old chaotic world, and brought the cosmos out of it, so would he overshadow Mary, and give her a holy Son. Mary was to sit still and see the salvation of God. And here we must notice that it was a "holy Child" which the world required as a Savior, one in whom the law of sin affecting the rest of the race should be broken, who would be "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners." David may say, "In sin did my mother conceive me;" but no such language must be heard from the lips of Christ. This moral break, this exception to the general rule, is brought about by a supernatural conception and birth. Is there not here a lesson about leaving things sometimes in God's hands altogether? It is a great thing sometimes to sit still and do nothing; to cultivate passivity. Like the Virgin, let us simply wait. As a further direction, Gabriel suggests a visit to Elisabeth, that her faith in God's power may be confirmed. The intercourse with her aged relative will do her a world of good in present circumstances. There in the hill-country of Judaea she will find increasing reason for trusting in God.

2. Mary accepts the situation with all its risks. Her submission is an instance of the holiest courage. She cannot but become for a time an object of suspicion to Joseph, and to many more. Her reputation will be for a time at stake. It is a terrible ordeal to encounter. But she bows to the Divine will, and asks God to do with her as he pleases. Faith alone could sustain her in such circumstances. God would vindicate her character in due season. How much are we willing to risk for our Lord? Would we risk reputation, the most precious portion of our heritage, if God clearly asked us to do so? This was what Mary was ready to do. In other words, are we ready to put God before personal reputation? Is he worthy in our eyes even of such a sacrifice?

IV. NOTICE THAT WE HAVE HERE AN INTIMATION HOW THE NEW CREATION MUST BEGIN WITHIN US. The angel-message comes to us, as to Mary, that "Christ" may be formed in us "the Hope of glory." What we have got to do is just to wait for the overshadowing as Mary did. It comes to the waiting and expectant souls. Not the waiting of indifference, but the waiting of expectancy, secures the great blessing. Let us cease from our own efforts, let us be still, and we shall indeed see the salvation of God! - R.M.E.







And the virgin's name was Mary.
1. The messenger sent from heaven to publish the news of the conception of the Son of Gad — an angel. An evil angel was the first author of our ruin; a good angel could not be the author of our restoration, but is the joyful reporter of it.

2. The angel's name — Gabriel, the power of God.

3. The place the angel is sent to — Nazareth. An obscure place, little taken notice of; "yea, a city in Galilee, out of which arises no prophet: even there the God of prophets condescends to be conceived. No blind corner of Nazareth can hide the blessed virgin from the angel. The favours of God will find out His children wherever they are withdrawn.

4. The person to whom the angel is sent — a virgin espoused. For the honour of virginity Christ chose a virgin for His mother; for the honour of marriage, a virgin espoused to a husband.

5. The message itself. The angel salutes the virgin as a saint; he does not pray to her as a goddess. Full of grace she was then, full of glory she is now.

6. The effect which the sight and salutation of the angel had upon Mary — she was afraid. But in her case, as in all, the fears of holy persons end in comfort.

7. The character which the angel gives of Him who should be born of her — "Great... Son of the Highest." Great in respect of

(1)His person,

(2)offices,

(3)kingdom.

(W. Burkitt, M. A.)

We have very little to guide us in our conception of the scene. Scripture never quite withdraws the veil which protects, quite as much as it conceals, the life of the mother of our Lord; but we venture reverently to arrange and draw together some side-lights which it is permitted us to catch. There is quiet Nazareth itself, nestling (as only villages in Palestine do) high up in a circlet of protecting hills, like one of those flower-baskets, with creepers hanging over the sides, which we see sometimes caught up between projecting points in a rockery garden. Nazareth, so still, so shut in from the world around, that it is not once mentioned in connection- with any single event in the whole of the Old Testament; not once in the Talmud, where names of obscure places occur in plenty; fist once even in the pages of garrulous Josephus, who enumerates no less than 204 towns and cities in Galilee. "Verily, Thou art a God that hidest Thyself," we feel constrained to say, as we contemplate the future home of Jesus; and we ask for notching better than to enter into the tranquil spirit of the hush of the little mountain town as we venture now to look more closely at her whose home it was. Mary was a "virgin betrothed"; that is all, as yet, that we know about her. To us she is literally "without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life." We have absolutely no clue at all to the interior or the surroundings of her village home. Was she spinning at her wheel, or grinding at the mill, or reading some roll of the prophets? Or was she just then sitting and musing over the great event of the last few days-her betrothal? The last we fancy most likely; for angels' visits, like dreams that are hallowed, argue a preoccupation of the mind in some direction kindred to their holy purpose. So Mary may have been looking back and looking forward: back on the past even, uneventful life, over which now there has moved a spirit of change, and which she can scarcely believe, perhaps does not even wish, ever to be quite the same again: and forward to she hardly knows what; only she is vaguely conscious of new aspirations, timid forecastings, undefined fears. And then, as all faithful Jewish women rightfully might, she would allow herself in some dim dreams of motherhood, and it might even be up for coming events cast their shadows before — that the unbidden thought would just creep across her mind that her betrothed husband and herself were both of the tribe of Judah; and was she to blame for taking to herself the sacred hope which was the heritage of every mother who belonged to the tribe that Jacob had blessed? Then came the angel, familiar to us now in name and mission, but none the less a sign and a wonder at his actual appearance. What form did the angel take? In what voice did he speak? How was he known to be an angel at all? are questions which rush into our minds at once. They will never be answered; we know no more than is written, and the inspired narrative lays upon us the responsibility of unquestioning faith. One point is left to our imagination — the angel's look. We fancy that his kind, steady, searching gaze must have been more eloquent almost than his prefatory words: "Hail, Accepted, the Lord be with thee; blessed thou among women."

(E. T. Marshall, M. A.)

Their airy and gentle coming may well be compared to the glory of colours flung by the sun upon the morning clouds, that seem to be born just where they appear. Like a beam of light striking through some orifice, they shine upon Zacharias in the Temple. As the morning light finds the flowers, so they found the mother of Jesus; and their message fell on her pure as dewdrops on the lily. To the shepherds' eyes they filled the midnight arch like auroral beams of light; but not as silently, for they sang more marvellously than when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy. They communed with the Saviour in His glory of transfiguration, sustained Him in the anguish of the garden, watched Him at the tomb; and as they had thronged the earth at His coming, so they seem to have hovered in the air in multitudes at the hour of His ascension. The occasions of their appearing are grand, the reasons weighty, and their demeanour suggests and befits the highest conception of superior beings. Their very coming and going is not with earthly movement. They are suddenly seen in the air, as one sees white clouds round out from the blue sky on a summer's day, that melt back even while one looks upon them.

(H. W. Beecher.)

All we know about Mary should appeal very forcibly to the heart and the imagination. The Child, and not the mother, is the chief theme of our talk and our thought, it is true; but no woman, and certainly no mother, can talk of the wonderful events of Bethlehem without thinking with tenderness as well as awe of Mary the mother of Jesus. From first to last she holds our eyes and moves our hearts, presenting us, as she does, with a perfect delineation of womanhood and motherhood; and our lives would probably be more full of love and helpful ministries if we gave more time to the study of her character. It may be asked, Why, when every pious Hebrew matron would have been thankful for the high and unique honour of being the mother of the Messiah, a poor, unknown, and retired virgin should have been chosen. A very little thought will suffice to show the suitability of Mary, and will also direct the mind to the womanly qualities which God honours.

1. Humility. It was this which made Mary great. Never did she obtrude herself upon the world, or try to get to herself the least share of her Son's glory. The part given her, she was content to perform with absolute self-abnegation and obedience. Lowly she was when the angel made his wonderful announcement to her; and meek and lowly of heart she remained to the end.

2. Submission. She accepted her lot, whatever it might be, without any complaint, or any attempt to have things otherwise.

3. Quietness. She was always more ready to be silent than to speak. From how many mistakes must she thus have been saved.

4. Fidelity. Not only at first, but to the very last, she rose to the tasks imposed upon her, and fulfilled the commands of God. "Not what I wish, but what I ought to do," was the rule she followed.

(Marianne Farningham.)

Probably there was never any. created being of-all the created worlds, put in such honour as this woman, chosen to be the Lord's mother i all the more truly our mother, that from her begins the new-born human race. To her it is given, even to grow the germ-life of the Divine Man, Son of the Father, in its spring. And her behaviour is beautiful enough to even meet an occasion so high. That grace of bearing, that sweet, devout modesty, such as became the motherhood of everlasting innocence; that watching of her miraculous Boy, that could so easily be telling His wonders, with a weak mother's fondness, in the street, but which still she was treasuring in her heart; that wondrous propriety of silence at the cross, allowing her no wail of outcry in that hour, lest she might be making herself a part of the scene. O ye lilies and other white harbingers of spring, culled so often by art to be symbols of her unspotted motherhood, what can ye show of silent flowering in the white of purity, which she does not much better show herself? We seem just now, in these modern times, to be assuming that Mary is gone by, and the honours paid her ended; and if we choose to let our hearts be barbarized in the coarse, unappreciating prejudices that have been, so far, our bitter element, there certainly are finer moulded ages to come. Is it too soon even now to admit some feeling of rational shame, that we have been weak enough to let our eyes be so long plastered with this clay? Doubtless it must be the first thing with us, after we have entered the great world before us, to get cleared, and assured, and at home in our relations to the Son of Man Himself. After that our next thing, as I think, will be to know our mother, the mother of Jesus; for no other of the kingdom, save the King Himself, has a name that signifies more. And I make no question that, when the great hierarchs and princes of other worlds and ages, who are challenged to pay their hosannas in the highest, throng in to meet us, they will ask, first of all, for the woman by whom, under God's quickening overshadow, Christ the Eternal Son of God, obtained His life-connection with the race, and His birth into practical brotherhood with it. As the sages of the East, guided by the star, brought out their tribute to the Child at her knee, so these ancients of God will come in with us, wanting above all to know the woman herself, at whose royal motherhood, and by it, Immanuel the King broke into the world and set up His kingdom. And higher still is she raised by the recognition of her Son Himself; for as she is yearning always fondly after Him, so will He never disallow His old. time filial feeling towards her, but will ever clothe her with such honours, really Divine, as fitly crown the part she bore in His wonderful story.

(Horace Bushnell, D. D.)

It is impossible to worship the Virgin, because the very exquisiteness of her character stands in her being a perfect type of human nature, pure and simple; her native womanly grace and innocence are her chief charm. Deify her, and, besides other things, you wrong the whole human race; you depose her from her rightful place at the head of Christian women; you cheat Christ's sisters of their sweet queen, and say, in effect, that you can do nothing with a pure life and a humble spirit but make an idol of it. Give us back the mother of our Lord; we want her here with us on earth, that our maidens and our matrons, feeling her to be one of themselves, may learn from her, in each event of life, how to receive God's will about themselves. It is a presumptuous interference with God's own ordering of the Incarnation, to take the mother of Jesus out of the category of earthly women, and to set her already on a throne in heaven. Was Christ born of a woman or was He not? If He was, let us accept the mystery with all its consequences, reverently limiting our thoughts and fancies by the extent to which God has thrown back the veil... It should be equally impossible to tolerate unscriptural legends about Mary. Men do not gild gold, or paint white frames for snow-wreaths; and do they not see what violence they do to the most retiring character in the world by dragging it to the front, and setting it on a throne, and making it an arbiter of the destinies of men? It is because we feel so strongly that Mary is just as God would have her in herself that we resent all apocryphal accounts of her doings, and deplore all unauthorized additions to her life; these fancied embellishments of the loveliest of womankind, only serve to hide from us what she really and genuinely was from God. We can forgive the false taste of a worship which professes to be sensuous; but we feel bound to protest against the tampering, in faith and doctrine, with the character and very being of her who is the cherished heritage of every Christian soul.

(E. T. Marshall, M. A.)

1. Poor, yet rich.

2. Troubled, yet meditative.

3. Proud, as a virgin, yet obedient as a wife.

4. First doubtful, then believing.

(Van Oosterzee.)

The angel's salutation of Mary may be applied to Christians in all the holy seasons of life, such as baptism, confirmation, the time of chastening, the day of death.

(Wallin.)

It ought to be highly encouraging to those whose lot is cast in the quiet walks of life — who occupy quiet, private, and unobtrusive stations — to observe how great honour was put on one humble as themselves; and how, in the faithful discharge of simple duties, and the making use of the appointed means, such piety has been attained as has never been surpassed, and perhaps rarely equalled. Mary had undoubtedly poverty to struggle with, and she was not placed in any conspicuous part, where great things were to be done and endured for God. Up to the time of the visit from the angel she had probably lived in the unaffected life which presents daily the same duties — perhaps daily the same hardships — the life of that great mass of human beings of whom the world never hears — who, some with more, others with less, of external pressure, rise in the morning to begin a round of humble occupations, of which, if night brings the close, the morrow will bring the repetition. Yet, living such a life as this, performing the daily duties which devolve on members of low, and perhaps straitened, families — duties on which there is nothing to throw splendour, and which may seem little favourable to deep spirituality — did Mary grow so rich with the graces of piety, as to be the fittest for the high honour which God had in store for woman. After this, let no one repine at not being called to eminent station, as though it were necessary to be great in office in order to being great in the virtues or rewards of religion. It has been well said that no man is to complain of want of power or opportunity for religious perfection. The devout woman in her closet, praying, with much zeal and affection, for the conversion of souls, is in the same order of arrangement, as to grace in general, as he who, by excellent doctrines, put it into a more forward position to be actually performed.

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

Next to the blessed Child, the Virgin Mother is the central figure of the Nativity. She is one of the noblest and loveliest characters in the Bible.

I. The saddest page in the world's history, is THE STORY OF WOMAN'S WRONGS. The law of strength has been always the world's rule of conduct, the weaker has had to go to the wall. Woman, because of her more delicate physical organization, has been the victim of man's superior strength, the prey of his basest passions, the slave of his injustice and tyranny. To justify himself in his oppression he has represented her as worthy only of contempt. Hesiod calls women " an accursed brood, chief scourge of the human race." AEschylus speaks of her as, "the direst evil of State and home." Socrates thanked God daily that he had been born a human being and not an animal; free and not a slave; a man and not a woman. "Slacken the rein," said Cato, "and you will afterward strive in vain to check the mad career of that unreasoning animal." Seneca calls her, "an imprudent, wild creature, incapable of self-control." The Romans habitually spoke of the majesty of man, the imbecility, weakness, and frivolity of women. "Better that a thousand women should perish, than that one man should cease to see the light." But with Christianity new ideas of the dignity and glory of womanhood came into life. The Son of God was born of a woman. "Christ," says , "was born of a woman, that neither sex might despair." By its reverence for the Virgin Mother the Christian Church wove into its deepest thought a new conception of womanhood, and did much to cancel the contempt thrown upon her in the person of Eve. If woman was guilty of the world's first sin, on her breast its Redeemer was nourished; and Bethlehem atoned for Eden. Eve was withdrawn as the representative of woman, and the mother of Jesus replaced her. Hence among the early Christians the position of woman was greatly changed. She shared with man the responsibilities of religion, the sufferings of persecution, the love of God, the hope of Heaven.

II. But this is not all that the worship of the Virgin meant. Before Christ came, IT WAS THE QUALITIES ESPECIALLY CHARACTERISTIC OF THE MALE SEX WHICH WERE WORSHIPPED AS DIVINE. Force, strength, courage, mental concentration — these were the qualities regarded 'as of highest worth. But Christ proclaimed the Divine nature of qualities quite the opposite of these — meekness, gentleness, patience, purity, obedience, love. It is the peculiar feature of Christianity, that it exalts, not strength, intellect, courage, but gentleness, lovingness, helpfulness, purity. But these are especially womanly virtues — qualities of character in which women usually surpass men. So this worship of the virgin grew up in a world wearied by violence and passion and selfish strength, of masculine ambitions and grasping resolves, sighing for some form of strength and glory which should be consistent with tenderness, and gentleness, and sweet affection. In a world trodden by armies, corrupted by lust, dominated by ambition, this worship of the Virgin was a strong and living protest against force and war and sensuality; a silent assertion of the glory of purity, goodness, and love. When the attributes of God and Christ were lost from view, that sweet and beautiful idea of womanhood shed gentle lustre amid dungeons and scaffolds and battlefields, and did something at least to mitigate their cruelties. It hung upon the walls of the churches, it looked down from chamber and from hall, it pleaded at the corners of the street, and it melted through the imagination of cruel and sensual men, as a heavenly vision pleading for humanity. Mrs. Jameson, in her "Legends of the Madonna," says: "In the perpetual repetition of that beautiful image of the Woman highly favoured, there, where others saw only pictures or statues, I have seen this great hope standing like a spirit beside the visible form — in the fervent worship once given to that gracious presence I have beheld an acknowledgment of a higher as well as a gentler power than that of the strong hand, and the might which makes right; and in every earnest votary one who, as he knelt, was in this sense pious beyond the reach of his thought, and devout beyond the meaning of his will." And woman greatly encourages his error when she accepts his estimate of worth rather than Christ's, and bestows her admiration upon the lower and more masculine attributes, instead of recognizing the higher glory of her own womanhood. Gail Hamilton's sarcasm, "Come girls, let us be men," finds an echo in much of the life of to-day, when it ought to carry its own refutation. The Bible gives woman a glory of her own. Let her take up and wield the spiritual sovereignty that is her everlasting birthright. Let man learn to be grateful to woman for this undoubted achievement of her sex — that she, often in despite of him, has kept Christendom from lapsing into barbarism, has kept mercy and love from being overborne by those two greedy monsters, money and war. Let him remember that almost every great soul, which has led forward and lifted up the race, has been inspired by some noble woman. "A man discovered America, but a woman equipped him for the voyage." The noblest qualities of both are blended in Jesus Christ. In Him is the woman's heart and the man's brain; womanly gentleness, manly strength. We do not worship Christ and Mary, for in Christ we find all that was sought in Mary.

III. There is still another truth striving for utterance in this worship of the Virgin, and this is, THE NEED WHICH THE HUMAN HEART FEELS OF A HUMAN AS WELL AS DIVINE SAVIOUR.

(J. H. McIlvaine, D. D.)

In the introduction of Jesus Christ to the world it would seem as if all laws of nature were to be suspended, that He Himself might be the crowning miracle of the universe. Even in the birth of His forerunner, God took the case into His own hand in a manner which excited the surprise and provoked the unbelief of servants who were walking in all His own ordinances and commandments blameless. In the birth of Christ law was not only suspended, but treated as if it had never had any existence, showing how easy it would have been for the Almighty to have founded society upon a totally new basis. The value of these miracles is seen as to their scope or purpose most vividly in the life of Jesus Christ. From the very beginning, in itself and in its surroundings it was to be a life distinct from all other existence. The manner in which both Elisabeth and Mary received the communications is precisely that in which the heart receives the .tidings of the great salvation. The idea of salvation overpowers all who apprehend it with any distinctness. It would seem as if every soul had to undergo a period of questioning and doubt and wondering before it realizes the ineffable peace and cloudless radiance of perfect trust. The reply which the angel made to Mary's question, "How shall this be? " shows distinctly that there are questions arising out of spiritual revelation which may be put with. out violating the Divine purpose of secrecy. Mary's point of rest must be ours; wonder was not allayed, nor was difficulty removed, yet the heart was given up to the possession of the Almighty. The gospel is to be received in the same way. Its doctrines will excite surprise and provoke inquiries, and it is possible that the answers to human questioning may but carry the mind to some higher plane of mystery. There it must rest, not in knowledge, but in faith, and the eyes of the heart must be opened when the vision of the understanding is unequal to the light. The whole incident may be used as teaching —

1. That human life is accessible to angelic ministry.

2. That the great surprises of life should be held in check by religious faith, lest they unbalance the mind, and unfit it for ordinary occupations.

3. That the omnipotence of God should be regarded as the solution of all mystery and the guarantee of all safety.

(Dr. Parker.)

1. There has been a large recoil of unbelief from these first chapters of Matthew and Luke. How comes it, many ask, if this be any proper history of facts, that it is made up so largely of poetic material?(1) First, we must observe, there is a great facility of verse in the Hebrew and Syriac tongues, so that minds but a very little excited almost naturally break into the couplet form of utterance.(2) Next, the Incarnation itself is an event so conspicuous and glorious, that everybody knowing it ought to be taken by some great mental commotion, lifted by some unwonted inspiration.(3) Furthermore, I will even dare to aver that the manner of this Incarnation-story is natural, and is cast in a form of the strongest possible self-affirmation. It comes to pass in just the only way conceivable or credible.

2. At this point my subject, which is Mary, the mother of Jesus, takes a most remarkable turn. Suddenly she drops out of improvising, out of song and singing joy, into a very nearly total and dumb silence; giving us to hear no spoken word again, save in a very few syllables, and but twice in her whole after-life. Not by the poverty of her nature that she is silent. Self-retention is the almost infallible token of a strong, deep character.

3. Jesus, a Man of thirty years old, goes to a wedding. And there we are let into a new chapter, at the very hinge of His public life, and the new relation He is to have to His mother. No reprimand, however, in His words to her ("Woman, what have I to do with thee?") save under the English idiom.

4. Look now for a moment at the home-basis Mary has provided for Jesus in the prosecution of His ministry. We see His mother's family all engaged for Him and with Him, and even if they do not believe in Him, they will stick fast by Him, we can see, in divinest and most faithful love.

5. Mary's behaviour at the cross fitly ends her story. She " stood" — a word of strong composure. Doubtless she remembers the word of Simeon — "Yea, a sword shall pierce through thine own soul also." But there she stands, in the beloved disciple's company, holding fast the decencies of sorrow, as if the proprieties of the worlds were upon her. How long after this she lived we do not know. But we could most easily believe that when her mind was opened at the Pentecost, to the meaning of her Son's great mission, she was at once so astounded and exalted by the awful height of her relationship, that her soul took wing in the uplift of her felt affinity with the Highest, and was gone! But we have no such traditions.

6. Her disappearing from us, however, does not bring her story to an end; it only prepares our final appearing to her, on a higher plane of life, where she will most assuredly be the centre of a higher feeling than some of us may have imagined. Probably there was never any created being of all the created worlds put in such honour as this woman, chosen to be the Lord's mother; all the more truly our mother, that, from her begins the new-born human race. "Hail, thou highly favoured!" "Blessed art thou among women."

(Horace Bushnell, D. D.)

Mary is not a dispenser of favour, but a recipient of it, with and for the rest of us; the type and germ of the Church.

(Rudolf Stier.)

Being of royal lineage, Mary undoubtedly cherished in her bosom the traditions of her house with that secret fervour which belongs to enthusiastic natures. Like all Judean women, we are to suppose her intensely national in her feelings. She identified herself with her country's destiny, lived its life, suffered its sufferings, and waited and prayed for its deliverance and glories. This was a time of her nation's deep humiliation. The throne and sceptre had passed from Judah. Conquered, trodden down, and oppressed, the sacred land was under the rule of Pagan Rome; and Herod, the appointed sovereign, was a blaspheming, brutal tyrant, using all his power to humiliate and oppress; and we may imagine Mary as one of the small company of silent mourners, like Simeon, and Anna the prophetess, who pondered the Scriptures and "looked for salvation in Israel."

(Harriet B. Stowe.)

In part, our conception of the character of Mary may receive light from her nationality. A fine human being is never the product of one generation, but rather the outcome of a growth of ages. Mary was the offspring and flower of a race selected, centuries before, from the finest physical stock of the world; watched, trained, and cultured, by Divine oversight, in accordance with every physical and mental law for the production of sound and vigorous mental and bodily conditions. Her blood came to her in a channel of descent over which the laws of Moses had established such a watchful care — a race where marriage had been made sacred, family life a vital point, and motherhood invested by Divine command with an especial sanctity. As Mary was, in a certain sense, a product of the institutes of Moses, so it is an interesting coincidence that she bore the name of his sister, the first and most honoured of the line of Hebrew prophetesses — Mary being the Latin version of the Hebrew Miriam. She had also, as we read, a sister, the wife of Cleopas, who bore the same name, a custom not infrequent in Jewish families. It is suggested that Miriam, being a sacred name, and held in high traditionary honour, mothers gave it to their daughters, as now in Spain they call them after the Madonna as a sign of good omen.

(Harriet B. Stowe.)

How important to have God with us everywhere! The late John Wesley, after a long life of labour and usefulness, concluded his course in perfect peace and holy triumph. A short time before his departure, when a person came into his room he tried to speak to him, but could not. Finding his friend could not understand him; he paused a little, and then with all his remaining strength he cried out, "The best of all is, God is with us." And then raising his feeble voice, and lifting up his dying arm in token of victory, he again repeated, "The best of all is, God is with us." Paul, when a prisoner, had the presence of God. Turn to 2 Timothy 4:16, 17: "At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding, the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me." It was a noble saying of his (Romans 8:31): "If God be for us, who can be against us?"

(Henry R. Burton.)

No woman that ever lived on the face of the earth has been an object of such wonder, admiration, and worship, as Mary, the mother of our Lord. Around her, poetry, painting, and music have raised clouds of ever-shifting colours, splendid as those around the setting sun. Exalted above earth, she has been shown to us as a goddess, yet a goddess of a type wholly new. She is not Venus, not Minerva, not Ceres, nor Vesta. No goddess of classic antiquity, or of any other mythology, at all resembles that ideal being whom Christian art and poetry presents to us in Mary. Neither is she like all of them united. She differs from them as Christian art differs from classical, wholly and entirely. Other goddesses have been worshipped for beauty, for grace, for wisdom, for power. Mary has been the goddess of poverty and sorrow, of pity and mercy, and as suffering is about the only certain thing in human destiny, she has numbered her adorers in every land, and climate, and nation. In Mary, womanhood, in its highest and tenderest development of the mother, is the object of worship. Motherhood, with large capacities of sorrow, with the memory of bitter sufferings, with sympathies large enough to embrace every anguish of humanity! Such an object of veneration has inconceivable power.

(Harriet B. Stowe.)

We see in all this that serious, calm, and balanced nature which was characteristic of Mary. Habitually living in the contemplation of that spirit-world revealed in the Scriptures, it was no very startling thing to her to see an angel standing by her; her thoughts had walked among the angels too long for that, but his enthusiastic words of promise and blessing agitated her soul.

(Harriet B. Stowe.)

One morning, according to the old legend, "as she went to draw water from the spring or well in the green open space at the north-west extremity of the town," the Angel met her with the Salutation. And Mary was troubled at the tidings and the praise. It was the trouble of a beautiful unconsciousness. She had never thought of herself, never asked herself whether she were pure or lovely, did not care what people thought of her, made no effort to appear to the little world of Nazareth other than she was A rare excellence in man or woman, this fair unconsciousness! — rarer than ever now. Our miscalled education, which looks chiefly to this, how a young girl may make a good figure in society, destroys often from the earliest years the beauty of unconsciousness of self. There are many who have never had a real childhood, never been unconscious, who possess already the thoughts and airs of womanhood, and who are applauded as objects to admire, instead of being pitied as victims of an unnatural training. Their manners, conversation, attitudes, are the result of art. Already they tremble, as we do, for the verdict of the world. They grow up and enter into society, and there is either a violent reaction against conventionality, or a paralyzing sensitiveness to opinion, or a dull repose of character all but equivalent to stagnation. We see many who are afraid of saying openly what they think or feel, if it be in opposition to the accredited opinions of the world; we see others who rejoice in shocking opinion for the sake of making themselves remarkable — perhaps the basest form of social vanity, for it gives pain, and does not spring from conviction. Both forms arise from the education which makes the child self-conscious. It is miserable to see how we actually take pains to root out of our children the beauty of the Virgin's early life, the beauty of a more Divine life in Christ — the beauty of unconsciousness of self.

(Stopford A. Brooke, M. A.)

The Angel does not say, observe, that the favour of God has found her, but that she has found favour with Him, The expression, it is true, may be used in either way, to indicate what God has undertaken to do for her, or what she has obtained by the suit of her gentle, sweet-minded prayers. It is most naturally taken in this latter way; giving us to see how she has been waiting before Him, from her tender girlhood onward, asking of Him grace for a good life, and questioning His oracle as to what she is to do, or to be. She has read the prophets too, as we may judge, and her feeling, like all the religious feeling of her nation, is leavened in this manner, by infinite yearnings for the coming of that wonderful unknown Being called Messiah. And so her opening womanly nature has been stretching itself Messiahward, and configuring itself inwardly to what the unknown Great One is to be. Sighing after Him thus, in the sweet longings of her prayers, she is winning such favour, and becoming inwardly akin to Him in such degree, as elects her to bear the promised Child of the skies, and be set in a properly Divine motherhood before the worlds! Ah, yes, Mary, canst thou believe it? That which the prophets of so many ages drew you into praying for; that which angels in God's highest and most ancient realms have been peering from above to look into, that for which the fulness of time has now come — that special thing of God's counsel, supereminent favour, His greatest miracle, His unmatched wonder, His one thing absolute, which lets nothing ever come to pass that can be put into class with it-even that thou hast gotten a call from God to mediate for tim world, bearing it as thy Holy Thing, the fruit of thy sweet and maidenly prayers.

(Horace Bushnell, D. D.)

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