It must have been strange to stand before the seraph dressed in light, strong and otherworldly, and hear him tell her not to be afraid. Perhaps it was even stranger for Mary to discover that God had formed an overall impression of her. She was known by God, and He favored her. He liked her (Luke 1:28).
The angel told Mary she would conceive a son who would rescue His people from their sins. God had already chosen His name—Jesus, which meant “salvation.”
But the angel’s message did not come without consequence for Mary and Joseph. It would lead these two young people to live as fugitives for a time, fleeing from the paranoia of a ruthless and powerful Roman ruler. And on top of all that, as her belly expanded, Mary and Joseph would have to endure the suspicious looks of friends and relatives who couldn’t help questioning her purity and his character.
All of this was coming, and so much more.
The angel continued with his message. Mary’s boy would grow to reign over the people of God as their Savior and King. The God who promised David so many years before that his royal line would see no end, would keep that ancient covenant by bringing an heir to Israel’s throne through this young woman.
“But how can this be, since I’m still a virgin?” she asked. For her to bear this son, she must conceive, and virgins don’t conceive. Everyone knows this.
The angel explained that all the laws of nature are amendable by the one who wrote them. Mary lived in the world that was made, and the Maker of this world was the sole Author of what could and would happen here. How this would happen was incidental to the fact that it would. And God would be the one to do it.
The angel needed to pay Joseph a visit as well.
Joseph was a decent man. He didn’t want to shame Mary, though he could have and no one would have blamed him. What could he do? His bride-to-be was pregnant, and he wasn’t the father. This burden must have weighed heavily on his heart, flooding his thoughts and his dreams.
One night as he tossed and turned, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. He had come to set something straight. This baby was not forming in Mary’s belly because of anything she had done. This was something God had done—something God was doing, part of the order and structure of His divine purpose.
“Don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21). There was a purpose in this for both Joseph and Mary. She would bear the child, he would name Him, and the child would save them from their sins.
Was this what the prophet Isaiah meant when he foretold that a virgin would conceive and have a son who would be called Immanuel—God with us (Isaiah 7:14)? This virgin Isaiah spoke of, could this really be his Mary?
written by Russ Ramsey
adapted from Behold the Lamb of God: An Advent Narrative