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“Though she was confused, Mary remained still, doing her best to listen intently to the rest of the angel’s proclamation.”
The sun shone strongly over Nazareth, bathing the countryside in a bright golden light. The hills of the small town gathered around one another like the petals of a rose, centering around the pens where sheep and goats wandered lazily toward the shade to escape the glare of the late afternoon.
In a small home at the top of the hills, Mary sighed, wiping the sweat from her brow. The stone walls of their dwelling seemed to trap the heat, and she thought to herself lightly, This must be what the dough feels as it bakes. Sweat gathered at the nape of her neck, moistening the bottom of her head covering.
Despite the heat, Mary was in high spirits. For months now she had been working diligently to spin extra spools of wool and weave additional linens. Her betrothed, Joseph, would be coming to gather her up as his bride, though she knew not when. Mary’s mother had helped her to consider what preparations to make: the bed coverings, garments, shawls, and baking cloths that she would need for her own household once she left to be with Joseph. Mary stored each item away carefully, packing them together in a traveling case that her father had set aside for her. She packed the spools away quickly, knowing she would soon need to go and help her younger sisters begin preparing the evening meal.
She turned to head toward the central room when suddenly she froze. Standing before her was a man who seemed to have appeared from nowhere. Though he had the features of a normal man, he stood nearly two cubits higher than her, and she lifted up her head to take in the full sight of him. Light shone around his entire body, glistening off the golden warrior’s armor that covered his arms, legs, and chest. Three sets of wings framed his massive form, one pair arced above his head, another pair open to his sides, and a third pair dropped lower to cover his feet on the ground. Mary had never in her life seen anything like him, and she was terrified.
“Greetings, you who are highly favored!” The angel’s voice echoed off of the stone walls and seemed to reverberate within Mary’s bones. “The Lord is with you.”
Mary’s mind began to race as she recounted all she had done since sundown of the previous day. Whom had she seen? What words had she spoken? What had she pondered in her heart? She knew that the Lord saw through to the thoughts and intentions of man, and she wondered anxiously what she may have done to warrant a visit from a heavenly messenger such as this.
“Do not be afraid, Mary, 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.” Son of the Most High. The title immediately brought to Mary’s mind King David’s song of deliverance, a song her father had sung to her many times as he taught his children about the Lord as Israel’s fortress and deliverer. Did not “the Most High” also refer to the Lord himself? Though she was confused, Mary remained still, doing her best to listen intently to the rest of the angel’s proclamation. “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.”
It was a monumental announcement, and Mary’s heart raced as she processed his words. Though she believed the angel’s message was true, her mind struggled to put these pieces together. Nonetheless, if this was what the Lord willed, she knew that somehow it would come to pass.
When she found her voice, Mary asked, “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.”
A child of the Holy Spirit. The Son of God. And a child for the childless woman. It was all incredible. But had not God given Isaac to Sarah in her old age? Had not God promised a deliverer and Messiah? Mary knew her God, and she knew that the angel was right - nothing would be impossible with him. She set her face and said to the messenger, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her, evaporating into the air like steam from a boiling pot.
Mary stood before the empty space where the heavenly visitor had been just seconds ago. As she reflected on the angel’s message, a grin spread across her face. To bear a son brought honor in and of itself, but to bear the Son of the Most High—to bear the promised one of Israel? She marveled that a sinner like herself would receive such favor from the Lord and covered her mouth as a laugh of elation burst forth. It almost made her want to sing!
When she was finally able to move again, she turned and caught sight of the spools that she had been packing away before the messenger came. The smile quickly faded from her face as adrenaline rushed from the top of her head down to the soles of her feet. She took a step back and dropped onto a footstool as the weight of her situation settled in.
When she was found to be with child, Joseph would be notified and he would be entirely within his rights to bring her forth for public judgment, the punishment for which was stoning. While he had a reputation as a man of integrity and meekness, Mary had never spoken with him and had no way to discern how he would respond. When he came for her, would it be to bring her to shame and death? Even before Joseph came, Mary would have to reveal this announcement to her mother and father. Would they believe her? Would they trust her when she relayed this announcement and stand behind her, or would she merely bring shame upon her family?
Mary closed her eyes tightly and took a breath, willing herself to bring her mind back from its reeling to the anchor of her God. What has the Lord told me? She thought back to the angel’s message from God: She would bear a son, and he would have a name, Jesus. He would be great, and would reign over a kingdom forever. Though she did not know how, Mary trusted that the word of the Lord would come to pass. She would live to bear her child, and he would grow to be a king. The Son of the Most High would come, and it would mean the upending of everything she had expected from her life. Even so, Lord, let it be.
Mary took another breath and rose to go to her mother and father. She paused again to look at the bridal items she had been preparing. She recalled what the angel had said about her barren relative Elizabeth being with child (praise be to God!), and thought that perhaps, after the evening meal, she would begin preparing her traveling case for a different trip instead.
Ashley is a member of Cornerstone and serves as a Web Content Editor.
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