In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Luke 1:26-38 (NIV)
For centuries, Mary’s people told the story of a Messiah who would come to save Israel. The promise became a part of the very fabric of Mary’s life. But how could she have ever imagined that God would choose her to be part of His plan for the Messiah?
Mary shook her head in a vain attempt to clear it. Then she stood to walk beneath the olive tree branches as she replayed the morning’s events moment by moment. She was sitting in the courtyard of her home alone, spinning wool into yarn, when a stranger stepped across the threshold to greet her.
“Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28).
With dreadful surety, Mary knew the stranger was no man but a servant of God. She dropped her work and stood to her feet, her legs shaking beneath her in terror. When the angel spoke again, his voice was gentle and full of compassion.
“Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; His kingdom will never end” (1:30–33).
“How will this be,” she had asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (1:34).
“The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God,” the angel explained (1:35).
Mary could only stare at him in stunned silence.
The angel looked at her for a moment and then added earnestly, “Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail” (1:37).
And Mary knew it was true. All her life she had heard the stories of God doing the impossible. Around the hearth on long winter nights, her parents told her how the walls of Jericho fell before Joshua at the sound of the priests’ trumpet blasts. Each Passover as their family reclined around the table feasting on roasted lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs, her parents told the story of how God delivered His people from Egypt. Mary’s God was a God who parted the Red Sea and rained manna from heaven to feed His people. He was a God who led them by cloud and by fire, the great Master of the universe.
Nothing was too hard for God. If God called Mary to serve Him, how could she ever refuse, no matter the cost?
“I am the Lord’s servant,” she said to the angel. “May your word to me be fulfilled” (1:38).
And then the angel was gone.
Mary wandered over to the olive press and stood before the heavy stone wheel, at rest on its stone base. She placed one hand on her stomach where the angel said a miracle was already underway and then bent down to pick up a few stray olives that had missed the crushing weight of the stone.
Would this miracle crush her, crush Joseph, like the tender olives beneath the wheel? Joseph would know the baby was not his. He would divorce her, of course. A scribe would be hired to declare her offense publicly. She and her sweet father would be shamed. What would her parents say when they found out she was carrying a child before she had consummated her marriage to Joseph?
What would she do? Where would she go? No man of any worth would ever marry her. Everyone would know her story, her child’s story.
The other children would call him names.
With terrible finality, Mary saw her cherished future with Joseph swept away. This… would break his kind heart.
Mary knelt beside the olive press, rested her forehead against the rough stone of the base, and turned her heart to the God of the impossible.“I am Your servant,” she whispered through her tears. “May it be to me as You have said.”
As written by Sherri Gragg in Advent: The Story of Christmas. Connect with Sherri on Instagram and her website.
Advent: The Story of Christmas traces God’s ribbon of redemption – from Eden to Jerusalem – through thirty-one biblical stories. Sherri Gragg’s unique storytelling, infused with cultural accuracy and color, has been described as “Bible stories for adults.”
Her narrative style offers a fresh perspective on the lives of God’s people, both ancient and modern. Advent: The Story of Christmas will enrich personal devotional time during the seasons of Advent and Christmas.
Today marks the first Sunday in the season of Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day. Join us here at (in)courage each Sunday during these weeks as we share excerpts from this beautiful book, learn more about Jesus, and count down to Christmas, together.Leave a Comment
Beth Williams says
I can’t imagine how Mary felt. Scared of all that might happen yet trusting the God of Heaven. She was a brave & humble woman. I’m not sure if I would have been like her. Yet that is what God calls us to do-trust & go by faith that His plans for us are better than ours. Thank you for a descriptive narrative of Mary’s calling. We know she says yes to the angel, but we don’t stop to think about what her feelings might have been & how would she tell everyone. Great story.
Judy Allen says
It’s east to gloss over the implications of Gabriel’s message to Mary. Thank you for putting me in Mary’s shoes this morning and for reminding me that God is a God of the impossible.
Becky L says
Interesting time in Mary’s life. Obviously a plan from God and even Joseph decided to keep her instead of getting a divorce. He believed the dream from God bbI like reading this story and thankful it all worked out in God’s hands. Happy holiday time.