Most of what we know about Mary comes from the pen of Luke, the Gentile physician who traveled with many of the early missionaries of the church. Luke also visited leaders of the early church in Jerusalem, Antioch and other cities where Christianity first took root. We mention this, to show that Luke had extensive contact with many who intimately knew Mary.
In Luke 1:26-38, Luke reports on the conversation between Mary and the angel Gabriel. Gabriel had been sent earlier as a messenger to Zechariah, the priest who would become the father of John the Baptist (1:11-23). Here we see Mary, a young teenager, speaking with this angelic being. As we might expect, she was shaken and alarmed. Gabriel’s announcement to Mary included seven specific details:
- You, Mary, are highly favored and the Lord is with you.
- You will conceive and give birth to a son.
- You are to name your son Jesus.
- Your son will be great and be called the Son of the Most High.
- He will be placed on the throne his father King David.
- Jesus will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever.
- Jesus’ kingdom will never end.
As we go through that list, we see some details not often discussed at Christmas time. So Mary received a description of the Son of God that was far more than a baby lying in a manger. Yes, that was to be the initial frame, but as she would soon hear, much more would follow and be essential to our understanding of who this Child was. Right away, though, she could not understand how any of this could happen: She was a virgin!
Gabriel’s response to Mary contains one of the most astounding declarations found in all of Scripture: The Child to be born of Mary was to be conceived by the Holy Spirit: He would be God-Man, the Son of God: 1:
35The angel answered, “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.” If we miss the full meaning of this announcement, we may well miss the good news of the Gospel!
If this son of Mary was born only “to be a good example” to humanity, his parentage as the God-Man was not essential or important. However, the necessity of this parentage was shortly to be confirmed. And as his life and preaching would later reveal and his death and resurrection would publicly prove, the Advent message should be adorned with the meaning not only of Jesus life, but of his death as well. Can you sense some of that perspective as you read Mary’s doxology? This was her song as she realized what was to happen to her.
Luke 1:46 And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior 48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me–holy is his name. 50 “His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. 51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53 “He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”
Shortly, we will “fast-forward” to Mary’s journey to Bethlehem, and listen in to what Mary hears about her son Jesus just a few days after his birth. But first, Matthew’s gospel will fill us in about Joseph and his response to the news that his betrothed, before they are married, is expecting a child.
Next: Joseph’s Testimony