Posted in Advent & Christmas, sermons & addresses

7 Unusual Things About the Incarnation

Gospel_of_Luke_Chapter_2-1_(Bible_Illustrations_by_Sweet_Media)Note: I preached this short message in the chapel of Africa Nazarene University (Nairobi, Kenya) on December 13, 2017. Thanks to Chalé Atikonda, a BTh student at ANU, who heard the sermon and later suggested a further point, i.e. “an unusual task,” which I’ve added to this revised version.

Scripture reading: Luke 1:26-38

All Scripture citations are from the Common English Bible.


“How should a King come?”

Jimmy and Carol Owens penned these words to the popular Christmas song:

How should a King come?

Even a child knows the answer of course;

In a coach of gold with a pure white horse.

In the beautiful city in the prime of the day,

And the trumpets should cry

And the crowds make way.

And the flags fly high in the morning sun,

And the people all cheer for the sovereign one.

And everyone knows that’s the way that it’s done,

That’s the way that a king should come.

And yet the Gospel accounts of Christ’s coming to earth make it clear: God’s ways are not our ways. Today, let’s look at 7 unusual things about the Incarnation, based on Luke 1:26-38, the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she will give birth to a son.



The appearance of angels was hardly an everyday occurrence. This is implied when Gabriel says to Mary: “Fear not.” People aren’t afraid of everyday events, but when they’re rare, they might give you a scare. Here was God’s messenger coming to deliver stupendous news. The name “Gabriel” means “God is my strength.” Here was an unusual messenger, a mighty being sent by God, and Mary took notice.


If Nazareth were a Kenyan town, it might make the top 100 list, but somewhere at the bottom, nestled between Nambale and Tabaka. Then again, Nazareth might not make any list, for at the time, people said: “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth” (John 1:46). Wouldn’t it make more sense for a King to come to Jerusalem, the Nairobi of its day, the main commercial and economic hub? But God’s ways are not our ways.


Mary’s age was not unusual, for even young girls of 12 or 13 by the custom of the day (and with life being short and brutal) could be married off young. In fact, Mary was engaged to Joseph. What made Mary an unusual mother to carry a king – besides her humble circumstances as part of the working poor – was that she had never had sexual intercourse. Look at Mary’s question to Gabriel in v. 34 – “How will this happen since I haven’t had sexual relations with a man?”


Sometimes we speak of the “Virgin Birth,” but as theologian Rob Staples has pointed out, there was nothing miraculous about the way Jesus was born. He was born in the same way that you and I were born, down a birth canal with all its drama. The more accurate term is the “Virgin Conception.” God’s method was unusual, as v. 35 explains: “The Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” We believe that Jesus is fully human and fully divine. The Virgin Conception underscores the divinity of Christ.


Verse 35 explains: “The one to be born will be holy. He will be called God’s Son.” Jesus was God-in-the-flesh, God incarnate, the eternal Christ. No other baby born in all of history was like this baby.



If Jesus was a baby like no other, then Mary was to become a mother like no other mother. Only Mary could claim that that she had carried the Son of God for 9 months in her womb.

While only Mary can ever claim to have carried the Christ child, the story reminds us that God can assign unusual tasks to his people. Would we be open should God ever ask us to do something out of the ordinary?


In response to the unusual task Gabriel announced to Mary, Mary displayed unusual obedience. She could have responded: “I’m not the right person for this task! I’m not nobility, I’m already engaged to Joseph. What will he think if he finds out that I’m pregnant? What will everyone else think?” Would people really believe that the father was the Holy Spirit? It was a problem pregnancy by any measure. And despite all these things, Mary simply responded in v. 38 – “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.”

Mary is an example of ultimate obedience to God. And what about us? What is God asking you to do? What is God asking me to do? Will we be obedient to God’s plan for our lives, no matter how unusual some might think it is?


How should a king come? Jimmy and Carol Owens conclude their song:

On a star filled night into Bethlehem

Rode a weary woman and a worried man.

And the only sound in the cobblestone street,

Was the shuffle and the ring of their donkey’s feet.

And a King lay hid in a virgin’s womb,

And there were no crowds to see Him come.

At last in a barn in a manger of hay,

He came and God incarnate lay.

God’s ways are not our ways. Luke 1:26-38 shows us at least 7 unusual things about the Incarnation. God…

  1. Sent an unusual messenger;
  2. To an unusual place;
  3. To to an unusual mother;
  4. Sending Christ to earth by an unusual method;
  5. Resulting in the birth of an unusual baby;
  6. To Mary, to whom he confided an unusual task;
  7. Who accepted it with unusual obedience.

May we, like Mary, be ready to be used for God’s purposes, however unusual they might be.

Image credits:

  1. Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons
  2. Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons




Greg is interested in many topics, including theology, philosophy, and science.

2 thoughts on “7 Unusual Things About the Incarnation

  1. Hey, Greg. Good sermon! I have an idea it will make its way into a Dave Crofford Advent sermon in the years to come. And I may even give you credit!

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