26In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.”
29Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. 31You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32He 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, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon 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. 36Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37For nothing is impossible with God.”
38“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
Every year, Christmas seems to come round that little bit faster. I’m told that’s a consequence of getting older! I do think, though, that the shops start introducing their Christmas ranges earlier and earlier, no doubt to try and get as much cash out of us as they possibly can! The first Christmas story gives even Tesco a run for their money, however. The first Christmas story began nine months before the birth of Jesus Christ, with the appearance of the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary. It is that vital, and oft-questioned, element of the Christmas story that this article will consider. Firstly, we will consider Mary’s situation. Secondly, we will look at how Gabriel introduced Mary to the baby that she would give birth to. Finally, we will think about Mary’s response to Gabriel.
The Virgin Mary must be one of the most painted people in the whole of human history. I doubt that there is a gallery anywhere in the world without at least one depiction of the mother of Christ. Most people know very little about this woman, however. What can we glean from this passage? We know that she lived in Nazareth, a small, insignificant farming village on the road to Samaria. We know that she was engaged to marry a carpenter named Joseph. Whilst Joseph himself had a rather humble job, he was descended from the great king, David, as indeed Mary probably was too. We can also see that Mary humbly submitted herself to God’s plan. We know too that Mary was a virgin, since it is made explicit in this passage. There are many high profile Christians who dispute whether Jesus was the result of a virgin birth, but if we are to believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God then there can be no doubt at all. Luke introduces Mary as a virgin, and Mary herself affirms this. So it is, then, that the messiah was born to a young, nervous woman who lived in a small village in the Middle East. Perhaps rather surprising!
Who is this child who Mary is to bear? Mary is told to call the child ‘Jesus’, which can be translated as ‘God rescues’. Right from the name of this child, then, it becomes clear that God has an important plan for this child! Gabriel says that the child will be great, and ‘Son of the Most High’, a term usually applied to God himself. Jesus will be given the throne of his father, David, the king of the people of Israel. Unlike the kingdom of his forefather, though, Gabriel explains that Jesus’ kingdom will go on forever; his kingdom will never end. This is particularly significant, since how can a kingdom continue once the king has died? Once Queen Elizabeth dies, those of us in the United Kingdom will be ruled over by her son, Prince Charles. Jesus’ reign will be different, however. We have here a foreshadowing of Jesus’ resurrection; if his kingdom is to continue, he cannot die. It stands to reason, then, that Jesus’ kingly rule is still with us today! We are servants of Jesus, the Son of God! Just as Jesus’ kingdom knows no boundaries in terms of time, neither does it in terms of space; Jesus’ rule stretches to every corner of the globe, even to those who do not yet know him. If Jesus is our king, perhaps we should reflect on how we are to serve him, particularly if we wish to be a part of this eternal kingdom. How marvellous it would be to live under the rule of someone as dynamic, pure and righteous as Jesus!
Reading this, I am rather gobsmacked at what Mary is told. What is her response, though? Surely she must have been even more shocked! Initially, we can see that Mary was, indeed, shocked; Gabriel tells her not to be afraid. She then questions how Gabriel’s prediction can come true, since she is a virgin. On hearing Gabriel’s explanation that the Holy Spirit will come upon her, Mary reacts in what can only be described as a cool, calm manner. She simply responds, “may it be as you have said. I am the Lord’s servant.” For a young girl to respond in such a way demonstrates just how much faith Mary must have had. It also reveals an incredible amount of humility, to accept God’s plan for her without questioning. We can all learn from Mary’s response to Gabriel. How often do we try to push God out of our lives in our determination to do things are own way? How often do we reject the sovereignty of Christ, which we have just seen Gabriel foretell? On a fairly regular, if not a daily basis, I should imagine. Perhaps we should all resolve to adopt Mary’s attitude, and simply tell God that we will conform our lives to his will, and won’t try to pursue our own agendas.
What have we seen in this passage, then? We have seen just who Mary is, particularly the fact that she was a virgin. We have also seen Gabriel foretell the coming of Jesus, who will rule over an eternal kingdom. We’ve also seen that Mary simply gave herself over to God’s will. Let’s remember this Christmas just who Jesus was, and think about how we respond to his rule, and his will for our lives.