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 favoured! 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 favour 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 for ever; 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.
This passage is so well-known that it might just flow past you. Did you ever wonder whether Gabriel appeared to Mary by walking in the doorway of the house, or if he came out of thin air? (I don’t think the painting has captured the simplicity of the house Mary was in, but I do like the angel’s rainbow wings!)
Did you notice how Mary responded to the angel? She didn’t seem that troubled by his arrival or how he looked. She was not prepared, however, to hear that God had looked favourably on her – she was a very special lady in God’s eyes – or could have any inkling of just what God had in store for her.
Rather than respond with amazement or disbelief to this astounding angel-presence and his message of God’s favour, of a holy and royal son, an eternal ruler, Mary seems to be more worried by the practical implication of how she was going to get pregnant. That’s a reasonable question, because Mary knew of only one way to get pregnant, and she wasn’t yet married.
She eventually gives in once the angel has made it clear to her that the process will involve the Holy Spirit and the Most High, and it will happen, and her child will be called the Son of God. I’m not sure, if I were Mary, that I’d feel any easier about it on hearing this information.
Message delivered, the angel heads off home.
Where do you imagine angels living?
How many angels are named in the Bible?
Father God, a young girl was surprised by your messenger-angel. She realised that this was a life-changing encounter for her, and she humbly submitted her life to her part in your plan for our salvation. Let me know your will for my life, I pray. Amen.