Part 1 of the series The Birth of Christ
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In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her (Luke 1:26-38).
The Virgin's Name Was Mary
“The angel Gabriel was sent from God” to tell Mary that she would soon give birth to a son. Gabriel had also been sent inform Zechariah that his wife Elizabeth would have a son (1:19; cf. Dan. 8:15-16; 9:21). “The sixth month” refers to the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy (1:24). Luke provides a few details about Mary.
First, Mary was from Nazareth.
Nazareth was “a city of Galilee” (v. 26). In that day, Nazareth was a small town of no more than 2,000 people. Luke probably adds that Nazareth is in Galilee because most of his readers wouldn’t know where it was. When Nathanael was told that Jesus was from Nazareth, he asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46; cf. 7:41).
Second, Mary was a virgin.
Since Mary was a “virgin” (v. 27; cf. Matt. 1:23), she could have been as young as twelve.
Third, Mary was engaged.
She was “betrothed to a man named Joseph” (v. 27; cf. Matt. 1:18). Unlike our marriage engagements, Jewish betrothal was a legally binding contract and could only be broken by divorce (cf. Matt. 1:19). Luke adds that Joseph was “of the house of David” (v. 27).
Fourth, Mary was shown grace.
The angel addressed Mary as “favored one” (v. 28). And he later said, “You have found favor with God” (v. 30). To find favor in God’s eyes means to be a recipient of God’s grace. By his grace, God had chosen her to be the mother of Jesus. (The Catholic translation is misleading: “Hail, full of grace.” Mary is not the bestower of grace.)
You Shall Call His Name Jesus
Gabriel said to Mary, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (v. 31). The name “Jesus” means “Yahweh saves.” The child was to be given this name because he would “save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Mary was given several promises about her firstborn son.
First, Mary’s son would a great King.
The angel said, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (vv. 32-33). Centuries earlier, God had promised David, “Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Sam. 7:14; cf. 1 Chron. 17:11-14). Jesus is presently reigning as head of the church and will one day return as King of kings and Lord of lords.
Second, Mary’s son would be miraculously conceived.
Mary did understand how a child could be conceived in her womb while she was a virgin. She asked, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (v. 34). The angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (v. 35; cf. 3:23).
Third, Mary’s son would be holy.
The angel declared, “Therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (v. 35). “Holy” could signify that Jesus was set apart for a special mission. Or it could mean that the virgin birth prevented him from inheriting a sinful nature.
An Example of Faith
God used an ordinary girl from a small town to bring Jesus into our world. God’s plans are often surprising!
Mary is not worthy of our adoration, but she does deserve our admiration. In her response to God’s plan, she is an example of faith.
1. God’s plans often bring adversity and confusion.
Mary probably anticipated that God’s plan would threaten her marriage and hurt her reputation (cf. Matt. 1:18-19). She also couldn’t comprehend how the virgin birth would happen. Being involved in God’s plan is not always easy.
2. God is not limited by our limitations.
Mary didn’t ask for a sign, but one was given to her anyway. The angel told her, “Behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God” (v. 36). Earlier the angel had said to Mary, “The Lord is with you!” (v. 28). We all have our limitations, but the God of unlimited power is with us!
3. God only asks us to be his willing servants.
In the end, Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (v. 38). This should be our response to God’s will. God doesn’t need the powerful, wealthy, or famous to perform his plans. He is simply looking for ordinary people like you and me who will say, “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”