She was young. So young. Far younger than the actresses who’ve portrayed her on screen, Mary of Nazareth was no more than twelve to twelve and a half years old. A preteen, an adolescent. That’s why our thoroughly modern Mary’s new Pinterest board includes a backpack, an electric guitar, and a pair of cool shades (love that royal blue).
Still, it isn’t Mary’s youth that makes her remarkable; it’s her courage. This innocent girl, this virtuous child, was willing to risk the shame of being pregnant out of wedlock, of being shunned by her neighbors, of being put aside by Joseph, if not stoned for adultery, all because an angel said, “God has a surprise for you” (MSG).
You’ll find a surprise waiting for you as well, wrapped inside Mary’s story.
Read Chapter Three: The Virgin Mother Kind
Read Luke 1:26–38
Elizabeth was six months pregnant, living in a suburb of Jerusalem, when “God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth” (Luke 1:26), an off-the-beaten-path kind of town in the Galilee region.
That same Gabriel had approached Daniel in a vision hundreds of years earlier. He “looked like a man” (Daniel 8:15), so, not huge with enormous wings, but still frightening enough that Daniel “was terrified and fell prostrate” (Daniel 8:17). Gabriel later came to Daniel “in swift flight” (Daniel 9:21), which surely took the man’s breath away.
Then, when Gabriel appeared before Zechariah in the temple, the angelic messenger announced that he stood “in the presence of God” (Luke 1:19).
Oh my. This is the heavenly creature who came to see our young Mary. Did she faint? scream? run for her life? No, she didn’t.
Mary trusted the One who sent Gabriel. She stayed. She listened.
“Greetings, you who are highly favored!” (Luke 1:28) Quite the opening line, isn’t it? Before Mary could grasp the full meaning, Gabriel assured her, “The Lord is with you.”
Now, here’s that surprise I promised you: Gabriel’s message for Mary is also God’s word for us. Because of the Son she would bear, we too are “endued with grace” (AMP) and “truly blessed.”
No, we won’t bear the Son of God, as Mary did. But when we’re born again, God places his Holy Spirit inside us. We are filled, as surely and as miraculously as Mary was: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
Why me, Lord? That’s the question that overwhelms me, time and again. Why are you so good to me? Mary never spoke those words. She wanted to know how, but she didn’t ask why she was chosen.
We spend a great deal of time asking God why, when we already have the answer: love. He told his people, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). Every chapter of every book of the Bible demonstrates his love for us.
Mary knew she was loved. Do you? When I call you “beloved,” do you believe it?
I tried to find a stock photo that might express the word “beloved,” and stumbled on a whole series of close-up shots of this young woman’s mouth, all labeled, “The Lips Of My Beautiful and Beloved Girlfriend.”
To be honest, I found her teeth far more impressive than her lips. But to the man who photographed her, no lips held greater appeal. Truth is, it isn’t her mouth we find amazing; it’s her boyfriend’s boundless love for her.
We tell ourselves we aren’t worthy of God’s love and attention, that we’re nothing special. God begs to differ. “For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you” (1 Thessalonians 1:4).
Just like our Mary, you have “found favor with God” (Luke 1:30). God didn’t choose Mary because she was special. Mary was special because God chose her.
That’s the teachable truth in this chapter, the one thing I pray shines through. However astounding Mary’s bravery, humility, and obedience, God is the one who is to be honored and praised.
When Mary asked her one question—“How?”—Gabriel’s answer was, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35). Even the word overshadow makes my stomach do a flip.
I’d have so many questions for Gabriel. When will this happen exactly? And where? How do I get ready? Will it hurt?
Mary asked none of those things.
So often we shower God with questions, demanding to know when our prayers will be answered, where he’s leading us next, and what we’re supposed to do in the meantime.
God isn’t wearied by our questions, but he is blessed when we simply take him at his Word and believe.
Gabriel gave Mary additional fuel for her faith, describing her pregnant relative, Elizabeth, “who was said to be unable to conceive” (Luke 1:36). Said to be. That’s the key. “No one thought she could ever have a baby” (CEV), but God knew better. The whole town called her “barren” (CJB), but God called her fruitful. “People said she couldn’t have a child” (GW), but God said, “Watch this.”
When Gabriel spoke the words we know as Luke 1:37, surely his fellow angels in heaven sang, “Glory, glory, glory to God in the highest!” Here are a half dozen translations. Read them aloud, if you can. Yes, right now. Let the truth sink in deep. These words weren’t meant only for Mary. They are also for you.
“For no word from God will ever fail.” (NIV)
“Nothing is impossible for God!” (CEV)
“There is nothing that God cannot do.” (GNT)
“Every promise from God shall surely come true.” (TLB)
“For with God nothing is ever impossible.” (AMP)
“God can do anything!” (NCV)
Mary’s response to this bold promise was sure and swift: “May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38). Father God, let us be just as eager to say yes to you, just as quick to offer ourselves to you, just as willing to trust, to believe, to serve, to love.
From the Study Guide
How can we lay aside our doubts, our fears, our cynicism, and recapture our ability to take the Lord at his Word and trust him completely?
I’ve worded this question as “we,” but I need to get more personal than that: How can I lay aside my doubts and fears? By standing up to each one, moment by moment. Maybe because I’ve been parked on Luke 1:37 for the last year, the enemy has been pummeling me with reasons to doubt God’s power, God’s sovereignty, even God’s existence. He’s been throwing tiny pebbles, not rocks—not enough to kill my faith or even wound it—but enough to be a nuisance.
In those doubtful, fearful moments, I step back and let God bring to mind the Scriptures I’ve stored in my heart. Many are The 20 Verses You Love Most. Others are favorites from my spiritual childhood, memorized three decades ago. I remind myself that, because God is with me, then like Gabriel, I stand in his presence. God will fight the adversary for me and God will, absolutely, win.
Now it’s your turn
Two simple questions:
- Was there something in Chapter Three that impacted you?
- What would it take for you to say with all your heart, as Mary did, “I live to do God’s will”?
Kindly share your response under Post a Comment below. As you know from reading various quotes sprinkled throughout The Women of Christmas, I cherish your words and the encouragement you offer one another.
If you missed my earlier posts, you’ll find links to them below. Want your own copy of The Women of Christmas? Here’s the best price I found online this week.
Bless you for making time to study God’s Word together during this busy season. Our next chapter is my editor’s favorite. I hope you’ll find it meaningful as well.
Your sister, Liz
P.S. You can watch me teach this chapter, recorded live, in the closing segment of Christmas at the Farm. Just start the video on my website page, then move the playback slider ahead to 53:45. When time permits, I hope you’ll watch the whole webcast and hear Ann Voskamp share from her heart about The Greatest Gift. We had so much fun. Thanks for joining us!