The Truth About Christmas
by Bob Burridge ©2010
This article continues a series of studies about the events surrounding the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. The series begins with, Called To Bethlehem. There is also a complete index for all the articles telling The Truth About Christmas.
Part 4 A Surprise for Mary
One of the unexpected events surrounding the birth of our Savior was the announcement of his birth to Mary. This Jewish girl in Nazareth was betrothed to a boy named Joseph, a simple carpenter.
Betrothal was a solemn promise of marriage, much stronger than engagement today. To break a betrothal was like getting a divorce. Usually girls then were married by the time they were about 13 or 14 years old, so Mary was probably younger than we usually picture her: probably 12 to 14 years old.
Like most girls she probably had images in her mind of having a nice normal home. We know from what the Bible tells us that she was a virgin. She lived morally and hadn’t been sexually intimate with anyone yet. Purity was important to her and by God’s grace she had resisted temptation.
Then one day, very unexpectedly, it all changed. A spirit being sent from God appeared to her. It was the angel Gabriel. Luke 1:26-27 tells us the details:
And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
No one suspected that God would use a family from Nazareth to bring the Messiah into the world. He was promised to be born in Bethlehem. That was a town not just for shepherds raising sheep for the temple sacrifices a few miles north of there, but also the home of many powerful Priests and Elders of Israel. It was like a suburb to Jerusalem.
But Nazareth? John 1:46 tells us that people commonly asked, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?”
But it was there that God’s angel came to a common girl named Mary. Luke 1:28-30 records what God would have us to know about this coming of Gabriel.
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. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.”
It’s easy to understand how she would be troubled. But Gabriel immediately comforted her. Then he delivered a most unexpected message in verses 31-33.:
“And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 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: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”
Mary was betrothed, but she wasn’t married yet and had lived morally according to God’s law. But God’s message came with amazing detail. She would have a male child, and she would name him Jesus. What’s more, this child would be called “Son of the Most High.” He would be the Promised One who would reign on the throne of his ancestor David forever. That’s what Nathan the prophet promised to David in 2 Samuel 7:12-16.
Since Mary wasn’t told how she would become pregnant she asked a logical question recorded in verse 34, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” Was she supposed to marry Joseph right away? Or was this a promise that wouldn’t be fulfilled until some future time?
The answer was more startling that anything she could have imagined. Verse 35 says, ” And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.’ ” The Holy Spirit was going to cause her to become pregnant. Supernaturally!
The Bible tells us back in verse 27 that Mary was a virgin. Twice it refers to her using the Greek word, parthenos (παρθενος) which means a young woman before she’s married or sexually active. There would be no doubt that this would be a miraculous conception. The child would be no ordinary human. The corrupted line of Adam would be disrupted. This child would be a true human person, but also the Son of God, not merely the son of a man.
This was quite a flood of information! So the Angel added more evidence of the power of God over conception. He said in verses 36-37,
“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. For with God nothing shall be impossible.”
Her relative Elizabeth was past the age for being able to have children. But she was already six months pregnant. Her son would be John, the one called the “baptizer” who would call Israel back to repentance. He was the one chosen to announce the coming of Jesus, the Messiah.
The evidence supported an important fact: nothing is impossible with God. So Mary humbly submitted to what God said he would do. God has preserved her words for us in verse 38, “Then Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word’ And the angel departed from her.”
Next Study: Comfort for Joseph