Most of us will never star in a movie, win a gold medal or speak to thousands. In this day of celebrities and even celebrity pastors, it’s good to remind ourselves that God loves to save and work through common ordinary people. That’s one truth the Christmas story teaches us.
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. (Luke 1:26-27)
Galilee was a small city of less than 2000 people in an insignificant region of Israel, 63 miles north of Jerusalem in Judea separated by Samaria. Biblical Scholar R.T. France says, “Judeans despised their northern neighbors as country cousins... who lacked Jewish sophistication.” Galileans spoke “a distinctive form of Aramaic whose slovenly consonants… were the butt of Judean humor.” Reminds me of how some sophisticated folks disdain a Western Pennsylvania accent: “Hey, yinz goin dahntahn to see da Picksbarg Stillers? Be sure to pick up some chip chop ham ‘n ‘at at da Gian Iggle.” Judeans were also of the opinion that Galileans were lax in their observance of proper ritual, and this problem was made worse by their distance from the temple and religious leaders in Jerusalem.
Remember when Philip told Nathanael about Jesus for the first time: “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:45-46)
Jesus himself would have had the Galilean accent and been despised by the religious elite in Jerusalem for his roots.
Gabriel was sent to “a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.” Mary was a young girl. According to many biblical scholars, in that day, betrothal (which was like engagement) often took place as young as 12 years old, then marriage a year later. So, Mary was most likely a young girl engaged to a young carpenter named Joseph.
God doesn’t do things the way we would. God didn’t announce the birth of the Messiah to a sophisticated religious leader in the religious capital. He chose to make one of history’s greatest announcements to an ordinary unsophisticated young girl in an unimpressive small town that would have been looked down on by the religious establishment in Jerusalem.
1 Co 1:26–28 says:
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are…
I said this to our church yesterday: “We are nothing great. We’re a bunch of pretty ordinary folks out here in Indiana, PA. Most of the world, and most of the United States have never heard of Indiana, PA. When my dad was transferred here from Tulsa, Oklahoma, when I was in 8th grade I said, “Indiana, Pennsylvania? What kind of town is that? It can’t even come up with its own name but has to steal it from a state.” We at this church are nothing special. We’re a bunch of sinners that Jesus has rescued and is changing. If you’re new here and you feel like you’re not that great, then you’ll fit in just fine. Because God loves to work through ordinary folks. Even through people with Western PA accents.”
I’m so glad God chose the lowly, the weak, and the foolish and those unwise by wordly standards. Because that’s me. That’s most of us who Jesus saves. And that’s who Jesus loves to use. Ordinary people. 13-year-old girls from small towns. Carpenters. Shepherds. Jesus wants to use you for his glory. He wants to use you to reach and bless people no one else can reach. Ask Jesus today to use you for his glory.
Mark Altrogge serves as a pastor at Sovereign Grace Church. Find out more at The Blazing Center.