Summary: Story about Mary.
The traditional Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke begins this way: “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world” (Luke 2:1). Most of us read those words without giving them a second thought.
Caesar Augustus reigned as emperor for 41 years. During that time he gave to the world the famed pax romana, the great Roman Peace that spread across the Mediterranean world. His greatest single act–the one which would have the most lasting effect on world history–was to call for this census of the empire. Historians tell us that it is not likely that the whole empire was enrolled at the same time. Given the slow system of communication in those days, it might have taken several years for the census to be completed in some of the outlying provinces.
It is possible that a compromise was made to take into account Jewish custom. The Romans ordinarily enrolled men where they were currently living, but the Jews counted families according to their ancestral hometowns. That would explain why Joseph and Mary had to return to Bethlehem at a most inconvenient time–in the ninth month of Mary’s pregnancy. (1)
Mary is a young girl between 13 and 17 when her story opens. Probably closer to 13 than 17 but we must remember the maturity level for her in today’s time would have been closer to 22 years of age. She had to work hard and had long days but she would also have time to play with the other girls of the village. She would have time to get to know the boys as well.
Mary would have had the dreams of a tall handsome boy that her father would pledge her to wed. She would fantasize how the wedding, the party and her life with him would be. For a young girl of Mary’s' time a husband to protect, to provide for her and to give her children were the most import things she could have for a happy life and future. She would need a male child to take care of her when her husband died.
Some times we see her pledged to be married, Joseph, as a young man and sometimes as an old man. He couldn’t have been very old considering the age of the average man during this time was 29 years old(2). Most theologians believe him to be an older man than Mary was a young woman. He probably had a family and that his wife had passed. This fits because of other Biblical knowledge we have of Jesus' life throughout his Gospel story.
After her pledge to Joseph a year would pass. During this time there would not be any sexual activities. It was a time for her to get to know her husband and his family. She would freely move between the families during this time.
28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
Then the Angel explains how she will be the Mother of the Son of God. Can you imagine the shock, maybe fear that is within her as she hears these words. As she listens, allowing the words so soak into her mind slowly. The confusion never leaving her. Not understanding what is totally happening. Her future seems fleeting away, so out of control.
Finally the first questions about all this comes to her mind and rolls over his lips and speaks: How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? The angle tells her that the Holy Spirit will move upon her and she will conceive a child.
I imagine a short space of time that seemed like eons as Mary being full of the Holy Spirit finally came to this conclusion:
Luke 1: 38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
And the story begins.
A person’s wealth, greatly impacted their life expectancy as well. Historian, J.D. Crossan, concluded that the life expectancy for the average man in the 1st century Palestine, was 29 years.