“But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.'” (Luke 1:30-31, NIV2)
Can we imagine being in Mary’s position? She was a young girl of about 13 to 16 years of age, and was engaged to a godly man named Joseph. She was preparing herself with great anticipation to become his wife.
We need to remember that marriages in those days were quite different to today’s marriages. According to Jewish custom, Joseph had approached Mary’s father and asked for Mary’s hand in marriage. Then came the fun. The father had to negotiate for a fair price for his daughter. Once the price was agreed on, Joseph had to pay the price. Only then was the marriage covenant established, and Joseph and Mary were considered as future husband and wife. The bride was reserved exclusively for the groom.
The groom would then leave his future wife with her parents to begin preparing a home for them. During this time of separation, the bride would be taught the responsibilities of becoming a dutiful wife so that she would become a fitting mate for her husband.
Only when everything was ready, and the home was finally completed, would the groom come for his bride, and Mary had no idea when this would happen. Generally this would be during the night; however, great anticipation occurred during this time of preparation. The arrival of the groom would be celebrated with a shout! The groom’s party would come to Mary’s home first, yelling at the top of their lungs: “Behold the bridegroom comes! Behold the bridegroom comes!” Only then would the groom appear and bring his bride to the wedding celebration, and in everything, she must be presented as a pure virgin.
Now that Mary was with child, however, her dreams would fall into a million pieces. No wonder she exclaimed: “How will this be . . . since I am a virgin?” The angel answered her: “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35, NIV2)
Mary didn’t doubt the angel. She only wanted to understand how this could come to be. Even though her dreams were shattered, she acted with humility and faith: “‘I am the Lord’s servant . . . May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her.” (Luke 1:38, NIV2)
In a world that thinks only about itself, Mary showed a shining example of what it meant to put God first in our lives.
Never before had such an event happened. Nowhere in the Bible was there even a mention of anything like this. There was absolutely no experiences of the past to draw from! Though the prophecy was clear: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (Isa 7:14, NIV2), most assumed it would be the result of the consummation of marriage. No wonder the Pharisees and Sadducees, as well as almost everyone else, would look upon Mary with disdain, as the mother of an illegitimate child, she deserved stoning by death!
How often does it happen that when God shows up in ways never heard before (ex. Exodus from Egypt, Elijah taken to heaven, Disciples speaking in tongues during Pentecost . . .), that people, many of whom are believers, criticize these events? Fortunately for us, this doesn’t stop our Father from being Who He is!
Interestingly, when Zacharias, a priest of the Most High, received news from an angel that his wife would bear a son (See Luke 1:13), he had a hard time believing. How could this possible? He was an old man! He asked God for confirmation, for the appearance of an angel wasn’t enough. He needed sound proof!
He got his confirmation: He was silenced until his son was born, and only then did his voice return (See Luke 1:18-20). When God silences someone in such a way, it is generally is because that person’s words could affect the outcome of the promise.
Mary received the promise with faith, even though her life would change drastically and not for the better. Zacharias received the promise with doubt. Mary obeyed, Zacharias didn’t. Ignorance asks for understanding, doubters ask for proof. Mary was way ahead of Zacharias when she surrendered unconditionally to the word of God.
God’s promises will be fulfilled, no matter what. We either trust Him fully or we stand to the side, shaking our heads with unbelief.
Christmas can be celebrated for the presents we receive, or it can be celebrated for the promise that we have been given. One day Jesus will return for us. He came once to pay the price of our sin; but now He is coming to claim His bride, to bring home the ones who believe fully in Him.
“I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:3b, NIV2)
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.” (Rev 19:7, NIV2)
How are we receiving His promise?
(To access the entire “Faith to the Cause of Christmas” devotional series, please click here.)