At the time of Jesus’s birth, most Jews would have known the prophecies concerning the coming Messiah, including a young virgin from the town of Nazareth named Mary. Then one day, the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that God was going to bring the Messiah into the world…through her. He said, “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus” (Luke 1:31). Through the Holy Spirit, a virgin would become pregnant.
I wonder what happened after Gabriel left. Perhaps Mary sat down to think about what just happened. Maybe she needed a moment to process all this. Was she really chosen to give birth to the Messiah—the same Rescuer that had been promised generations before? Scripture doesn’t tell us what came flooding into her mind at that moment. Was she overwhelmed with excitement or filled with a calm sense of peace? What we do know is that the next thing Mary did was go to visit her cousin Elizabeth. She found Elizabeth pregnant, just as the angel had said, “Your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month” (verse 36). The two women rejoiced together! But after three months, Mary returned home to some very difficult situations.
Here’s the problem: Mary was engaged to Joseph, and in ancient Jewish culture they would have been considered legally married even before living together and having sex. Within a few weeks of her return to Nazareth, people would have begun to realize that Mary was pregnant. In a Jewish culture following the law of Moses, she could have been stoned to death for sexual immorality. At the very least, she would’ve been an outcast. This also put Joseph’s reputation at risk because if he went ahead with the wedding, people would think he had violated God’s law of celibacy by having sex with Mary during the engagement period.
Today, we can read the Bible and see how God provided for Mary, but in the moment, there was no way she could have known what would happen to her, and she probably experienced any number of doubts and fears. Still, Mary trusted God to see her through these difficult times. And God was faithful to take care of her and fulfill His promises. • Doug Velting
• Imagine yourself in Mary’s place. What would you be thinking coming back to Nazareth?
• Can you think of a time you were in a difficult situation and God helped you through it?
Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!… For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me.” Luke 1:46-49 (NLT)