In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” —Luke 1:26-28
Everyone loves the moment in the Christmas Eve Service when we as a congregation raise our lit candles and join in singing “Silent Night.” No matter how many times I take part in this climactic moment, I find it invariably moving and beautiful.
And solemn. The author of the Book of Luke wrote his account of the life of Jesus some 100 years after the event described in these verses—Gabriel’s “Annunciation” to Mary of her “favored” status as the mother of God’s son. Luke thus would have been writing not only with keen interest in explaining how this story begins, but with an acute sense of how it all ends. He would have understood that the joy of “Annunciation” cuts a straight line to suffering, and death, on the cross.
I still recall the striking language Dr. Peters used in baptisms. Just as he placed his hands on the head of the baby, he would repeat (if memory serves) the following beautiful, moving, and solemn words: “Child of God, living, be thou unto God. Dying, be thou unto God. Living or dying, be thou unto God forevermore.” Entering the world as a baby means that God enters the world just like us—as a living, dying thing.
But Luke also understood that the story of Jesus precisely does not end at the cross. The miracle of resurrection means that we are not only living and dying. We are also “unto God”—forevermore.