It happened in the fifth rate hill village of Nazareth, in what was considered the third rate land of the Jews. It was a scene that would change the course of history and the lives of millions and millions of men and women. It is the familiar scene that we experience in Luke 1:26-38.
“In the 6th 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 King 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 cousin is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her 6th 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.”
Can you imagine how much of a shock this must have been to Mary at first? Sure for thousands of years the Jews were talking about the promise of God to Adam and Eve about a Redeemer. They heard the words of the prophets and knew that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem just south of Jerusalem. They also knew he would be born to a woman who would be a virgin. They knew he would be born to a descendant of the great King David. Someday they knew he would come. But now and to such a simple peasant girl such as Mary who lived several days’ journey away from Bethlehem in a town called Nazareth?
Mary, just like any other Jew would know about these promises. She may have even had a secret hope, like many women may have had to be the one chosen by God to give birth to the Redeemer. But when the angel Gabriel appeared to her that day, she still must have been somewhat shocked that it was she who God had chosen. Can we even begin to imagine what she must have been feeling?
The angel knew she was troubled and needed words of comfort and this is why he told her “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.” He also gave her more assurance this was true by telling her about her cousin who was no longer of child bearing age was already six months pregnant.
You might also notice that Mary didn’t react as if this was something impossible that God couldn’t do. Instead she just wanted to know how God would achieve this since she was a virgin. He assured her that it would be through the Holy Spirit of God that she would become the Mother of God.
Mary’s faith in God was what enabled her to accept something of such magnitude. There were a lot of different ways that she could have reacted and a lot of reasons why she could have said “No.” She could have told Gabriel ” No, sorry Gabriel. Joseph would never understand such an arrangement. The people in this small town would gossip, even possibly stone me. This would create too many problems for the child as well as for us. I don’t think I really want all the troubles this could create in my life.” But she didn’t say any of that, she didn’t even bring up her fears. Instead what we hear from Mary is total acceptance of God’s plan for her life. “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” Period, end of conversation and Gabriel left.
With that “Yes” Mary opened the door of salvation for all mankind. It was that “Yes” that saved us all.