Father, help us to trust you, to maintain our faith in you when every other force would pull us away from you. Open our ears, your eyes, our hearts and our minds to your will for us and to the gentle voice of your Spirit.
In Jesus’ name, amen.
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
The angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary is called the Annunciation. There are some key points to consider about this portion of the reading:
- Mary came from a poor and lowly family, and is a relative of Elizabeth.
- Mary was a virgin (unusual for that time and place), and probably a teenager.
- While it’s not clear in the passage, Mary could have chosen to decline, but did not.
- Ultimately, Mary show’s faith and trust in God, as well as her willing obedience when she affirms her acceptance of what Gabriel tells her.
(Question:) Tell us something about Jesus’ birth that that you witnessed or experienced.
(Mary:) I was very aware that I was carrying and giving birth to God’s Son. The conception of Jesus was no ordinary thing; God made it very plain to me that Jesus was His Son and that He was entrusting me to be His mother. It wasn’t something that I had to take by faith‚ because I saw the angel, I felt the angel, I heard him speak more clearly and audibly than I’d ever heard a human. His voice wasn’t just in the room, it resounded in my mind and in my heart, and it was as if I even tasted his words—my whole being experienced everything he said.
That was when I knew I had conceived Jesus. The more the angel spoke, the more my mind, body, and soul reeled with emotion and feeling and intense awareness of God’s presence before me. You know that God’s words have the power to create life. It was the same with the creation of Jesus within my womb. As God spoke through His messenger angel, the life was created within me.
As the angel said the words, “You shall be given a son and His name shall be called Jesus” (Luke 1:31), something exploded within me, and I knew that this new life had formed. It was an incredible feeling of passion, euphoria, joy, and, yes, shock! I was enthralled. That was the conception of Jesus, and it was one of the most memorable moments of my life on Earth, as you can imagine. – From Interview with Mary by “Bring the Elixir”
Even today (2017), teenage pregnancy with or without a husband is a stigma that seems to follow young women for the rest of their natural lives, no matter how successful they become at parenting, careers, life in general.
Imagine what it must have been like for Mary. She was from Nazareth (Nothing good comes from Nazareth – John 1:46), a backwoods, boondocks, Hicksville, trailer park territory, home of the rednecks, illiterate, backwards, behind the times, dead end town that no one famous ever came from located in the hills of Galilee. She was betrothed (engaged) to a good man. Life was looking up.
And then along comes the angel, Gabriel, who tells her she’s been chosen to bear the Son of God. Her faith, her trust in God that He would both protect her and her child had to be extreme. It was dark times back then. The Priesthood was corrupt. The Governor had sold out to power over piety. And the punishment for being unwed & pregnant?
Genesis 38:24 – About three months later Judah was told, “Tamar your daughter-in-law has been immoral. Moreover, she is pregnant by immorality.” And Judah said, “Bring her out, and let her be burned.”
Deuteronomy 22:20 – If a man marries a girl who is claimed to be a virgin, and then finds that she is not, “they shall bring the girl to the entrance of her father’s house and there her townsmen shall stone her to death”
Deuteronomy 22:23, 25-27 – If a man has relations within the walls of a city with a maiden who is betrothed, “you shall bring them both out to the gate of the city and there stone them to death.” … but if they were in the open fields, “the man alone shall die”, because if it was in the open fields, “though the betrothed maiden may have cried out for help, there was no one to come to her aid.”
Deuteronomy 22:29 – If the maiden in question is not betrothed, the punishment is different. “The man who had relations with her shall pay the girl’s father fifty silver shekels and take her as his wife, because he has deflowered her. Moreover, he may not divorce her as long as he lives.”
So here’s this very young girl faced with something that could get her stoned to death (or worse), an unbelievable (to most) explanation of her circumstances (that conversation with an angel), and a choice. Risk everything (engagement, reputation, life) to have a baby, or … tell God no. Now, before you all say, “well, duh, pro-life, have the baby …”, remember: she’s not pregnant yet.
What would you do in Mary’s shoes? How solid is your faith in God, your trust in Him? What are you willing to risk for Him? More, importantly, would you choose God’s will and plan for you, or your own?
Because, Mary had a choice. She could have said “thanks, but no thanks.” Instead, she said, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”
Throughout our lives we will often be faced with difficult choices; the kind that – once made – may alter the paths of our lives forever. The most difficult choice we will make in each of those decisions is whether to turn to God, to pray to Him, and to trust the answer He gives us even if it isn’t the answer we wanted to hear.
March 25, an approximation of the northern vernal equinox nine full months before Christmas, the ceremonial birthday of Jesus, is considered Annunciation Day. It is celebrated in a variety of ways by some churches. The Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran churches celebrate it, but move the date if it falls during Holy (Easter) Week or on a Sunday. Other churches including the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church do not move the date, having special combined liturgies for those years when the Annunciation coincides with another feast; in fact in these churches a Divine Liturgy is celebrated on Good Friday when it coincides with the Annunciation.
Many pre-modern Christian countries used March 25 as the beginning of the New Year, a practice that continued in France until 1564 when Charles IX moved New Year to January 1, and 1752 in England.
The Annunciation is discussed twice in the Bible (Luke 1:26-38 and Matthew 1:18-21), in Manuscript 4Q246 of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and twice in the Quran (Sura 003:045 Al-i-Imran – The Family of Imran verses 45–51, and And Sura 019:016 Maryam – Mary verses 16–26).