READ: Matthew 1:18-23, Luke 1:26-38, Luke 2:1-7
Biblical scholars disagree over the age of Mary when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her to tell her that God had chosen her to bear His son. But the consensus is that she was a young maiden of about sixteen or seventeen—a virgin. Mary’s encounter with the angel is more than my mind can comprehend. How terrified she must have been! But Gabriel told her not to be afraid. She was highly favored by the Lord, and He was with her. My heart thumps and my pulse races when I think about how I might have reacted. I’m not sure I would have been that brave.
When I was seventeen—a virgin, a naïve girl—I left home for the first time to attend university in a large city. I was lost. Desperately lonely and finding it hard to cope with all the challenges and adult pressures of my new life, I decided to move back under my parents’ roof and enrolled in a four-year college nearby. I lived with Mom and Dad until I married.
Mary, pledged to marry her fiancée Joseph—a descendant of David—undoubtedly lived with her parents as well. Now she had to tell Joseph and her parents that she was pregnant. Can you imagine how difficult it must have been for her to tell them the story of how Gabriel appeared to her and how the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and God planted the seed of His son in her womb? I shudder to think of her dilemma. Who would believe such a wild story? I can almost see the disappointment on everyone’s faces—their disbelief.
You see, engagements at that time were more binding than engagements today. The only way to break an engagement then was for the man to divorce his intended. Joseph actually held the power of Mary’s life in his hands. If Joseph had proclaimed Mary’s infidelity and divorced her in public, her sentence for such an act of betrayal was death by stoning. Mary took a huge leap of faith when she answered Gabriel, saying, “I am the Lord’s servant…May it be to me as you have said.” Mary’s complete submission to God came with enormous peril.
As devastated as Joseph must have been that the girl he loved had been unfaithful, he was a good and kind man. Evidently, he could not bear to be the instrument of her death, no matter how justified he would have been. Instead, he decided to end their relationship quietly and put her away from him. Did Mary lay on her pallet that night and cry out to God? Had she been wrong? Had she really seen an angel? Did she doubt her own sanity? I must confess, I’m afraid that would have been the lowest point of my life.
But the Lord always has a perfect plan. Even before He honored the virgin Mary to carry his child, He knew Joseph would make an excellent earthly father for his son Jesus. So God sent an angel to reassure Joseph that Mary was telling the truth. She, indeed, was pregnant with the Savior of the world. All of the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus came to fruition in the womb of a young, innocent virgin, and she gave birth to a son in Bethlehem.
Mary’s bravery and her submission to God’s will, no matter how bizarre the event, is a testament to us all that we can follow Him in perfect peace to fulfill His call on our lives.
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Discuss: Has God asked you to do something that seems unbelievably impossible? Do you feel inadequate for the task? Can you take a leap of faith and believe that God will equip you for His call on your life? Because Gabriel assured Mary that she was greatly honored and loved by God, she found the courage to submit her will to His desire. Because of her faithfulness and obedience in carrying the Savior to term, we can all rest in the knowledge that God loves us and wants to spend eternity with us. There is no greater gift.
Pray: Father, instill in us the courage and obedience of the virgin Mary even when we are afraid and full of doubt. Help us to submit to your will even though you call us to do hard things. May your Holy Spirit walk with us through the storms of life and whisper that we never need be afraid as long as you are with us. Guide us in the path of righteousness that we may always trust you and submit to your loving plan for our lives.