Summary: Mary was a young Jewish virgin who received the surprise of her life one day! The angel Gabriel appeared to her and explained that she had been chosen to be the mother of the Messiah! What happened then?
Introduction: the first Christmas was important to many people, three in particular. Besides Baby Jesus Himself, there were Mary, His mother after the flesh; and Joseph, chosen by God to be the foster father of the Son of God (what a challenge!). This message focuses on Mary first, because there is more information about her part in this story and Luke’s gospel in particular has more of a record of what she said. It could also be that she would suffer more than most women because of her Son and what He did. Regardless, without Mary, there wouldn’t be much of a Christmas!
1 When Mary met the angel Gabriel
Text, Luke 1: 26-38, KJV: 26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. 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. 30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. 36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing shall be impossible. 38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
Gabriel is mentioned several times as one of God’s angels. He first appeared to Daniel (8:16, 9:21), then just a few months before this when he appeared to Zacharias the priest, telling him that he and his wife would become parents. Zacharias didn’t believe Gabriel and became mute until his son was born (compare Luke 1:18-20 with 1:59-64). After he regained his speech or voice, the song of Zacharias is a beautiful expression of praise (Luke 1:68-79).
Now he appears to Mary, and she was not expecting this (does anyone expect a visit from a heavenly messenger?)! He tells her something that either she was not expecting, or, thought it was too good to be true. In fact, Luke says she was “troubled” at his saying (“scared stiff” might be a good paraphrase) and wondered just what she was hearing. At any rate, Mary was afraid but Gabriel told her “Fear not” or “Stop fearing, Mary”—she had found favor with God!
Then Gabriel followed this by saying some of the most remarkable words ever spoken: “You will conceive, and bear a child; you’ll call Him JESUS” along with other things. In a word, he told her, “Your Child will be the MESSIAH!”
By now Mary may have gained some of her composure. She heard what Gabriel had said, and didn’t protest or say, “Ah, thanks but no thanks—why don’t you find another virgin for this?” No, she only asked something that made sense from a moral and practical standpoint. She said, “How can this be? I know not a man (or, I am not knowing a man in the marital sense)”. From this, we can determine she was at least old enough to bear a child. Would God have asked her to do this if she was too young? And, she is aware of her virginity, so that’s maybe one reason why she asked Gabriel how it would be possible for a virgin to bear a child. Ordinarily, this would not be possible: males and females both have a contribution to make before a child is conceived.
But this was not a normal situation.
Gabriel explains so beautifully, so tactfully, just what was going to happen to Mary, waiting for her approval of this situation. Isn’t it good to know, that even when God makes a choice, He gives the person a choice, too? Mary could have said No, but she didn’t. She made her choice. She gave herself to the LORD completely: “handmaid” is in late 2020 receiving a great deal of bad press but it simply means the girl, Mary in this case, was submitting her own will or choice so that God could use her to accomplish His purpose.