An Angel Tells about
26One month later God sent the angel Gabriel to the town of Nazareth in Galilee 27 with a message for a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to Joseph from the family of King David. 28The angel greeted Mary and said, “You are truly blessed! The Lord is with you.”
29Mary was confused by the angel's words and wondered what they meant. 30Then the angel told Mary, “Don't be afraid! God is pleased with you, 31 and you will have a son. His name will be Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of God Most High. The Lord God will make him king, as his ancestor David was. 33He will rule the people of Israel forever, and his kingdom will never end.”
34Mary asked the angel, “How can this happen? I am not even married!”
35The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come down to you, and God's power will come over you. So your child will be called the holy Son of God. 36Your relative Elizabeth is also going to have a son, even though she is old. No one thought she could ever have a baby, but in three months she will have a son. 37 Nothing is impossible for God!”
38Mary said, “I am the Lord's servant! Let it happen as you have said.” And the angel left her.
Luke is a good story teller. He intertwines the stories of Elizabeth and Mary so that we read one in the light of the other. Mary’s experience was similar, but significantly different to Elizabeth’s. Unlike Elizabeth, she was not married, and had not lived a long life of childlessness.
There are similarities, too, and today’s story is similar to yesterday’s in the appearance of the angel Gabriel to both Zechariah and Mary. How do you think of angels? They have been tamed and sentimentalized by the greeting-card culture to such an extent that we can lose sight of what it meant in Biblical times to be visited by an angel. The angels of Scripture are always male, always appearing in human form although not human themselves, and appeared with messages from God to humans. They brought with them a powerful sense of the supernatural, and the most common response of humans was fear. To see an angel was like seeing, and being seen by, God himself. (Their role is now taken over by the Holy Spirit, who lives in every believer.)
If the angel’s message to Zechariah was stunning, look at what he says to Mary. His initial greeting, “The Lord is with you” would have recalled Isaiah’s prophecy, ambiguous by divine inspiration, that a young woman/virgin would conceive a child who would be “Immanuel,” God with us (Is.7:14). Mary will be made pregnant by God himself, before she has intercourse with Joseph. The child will be the Messiah promised to David in 2 Sam 7, and the son of man in Daniel 7:13-14. The child is to be called “Jesus,” which means “God is salvation” (v 31), and “the Son of God” (v 35).
Imagine! Think about all that the angel had imparted to Mary. What a lot she had to ponder. Mary was more ready to believe than Zechariah had been, and her response was humble submission.
Are you a cultural Christian, accepting the words of the Bible because everyone around you does? Or have you pondered these words yourself? Are they 21st century real? Have you thought about what an amazing event this was?
Father God, I’m amazed at what you promised to Mary, and how you fulfilled that promise. Thank you for your love for us, although we have turned away from you again and again. Thank you for this story. Help me to understand it as it unfolds, and to respond with a faith as simple as Mary’s.