December 6, 2013
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
The next event in The Time-Line of Christmas recorded in the Bible is the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she would be the mother of the Christ child. It is recorded in Luke 1:26 through 38 and – like in the last blog – I will shorten the passage by selecting certain verses to get the gist of the event – verses 26 through 28, 30 through 35:
…the angel Gabriel was sent by God to…Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a
man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was
Mary. And…the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is
with you; blessed are you among women….Do not be afraid, Mary, for you
have found favor with God. And, behold, you will conceive in your womb
and bring forth a son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and
will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the
throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob for-
ever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Then Mary said…“How can
this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered…“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.”
According to verse 26, this was in the sixth month of her cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy with John the Baptist. So John – Jesus’ second cousin, if Mary and Elizabeth were first cousins – was about six months older than Jesus.
It is said that the highest dream of many young women in Israel was to bear the Messiah – God’s anointed One – into the world. This was based on different prophecies in the Old Testament, one of the major ones being Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” But who could have seen the choice of a humble girl from Nazareth – probably just a teenager, maybe as young as twelve!
It was common for a young woman to become engaged to an older man in those days. Joseph, the carpenter – builder of plows and other farming implements, according to tradition – may have been about 30 years old. Both of them were descended from King David who reigned over all Israel a thousand years before. But both families had lost regal trappings centuries before – and were now just of peasant stock. Still, it was important that the Messiah be born of David’s royal descendants. In Isaiah 9:7 it says,
Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the
throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with
judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.
There are several other Old Testament scriptures that prophesy Christ would be of David’s kingly line (see II Samuel 7:16; I Kings 2:45; Psalm 89:35 through 37; Isaiah 11:1 through 10).
Joseph’s line of descent through David’s son, King Solomon, is found in Matthew 1:1 through 16. Mary’s line of descent through another of David’s sons, Nathan, is given in Luke 3:23 through 38. That the Luke 3 genealogy is Mary’s is not the only interpretation by Bible scholars, but it is the least problematic one.
Mary questioned how she could become pregnant without physical intimacy with a man. Gabriel’s answer was that “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you…” (Luke 1:35). God Himself would father her child! I find it interesting that Mary’s question of “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” (Luke 1:34) and Zacharias’ question to Gabriel concerning the conception and birth of John the Baptist, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years” (Luke 1:18) seem to be quite similar. Yet Zacharias was struck dumb – a punishment for not believing the angel – and Mary was not even reprimanded! I can only believe that the thinking behind the questions of the two was different. Zacharias was doubting in unbelief while Mary was asking about the mechanics of the miraculous conception that was to take place within her.
Her total acceptance of Gabriel’s message is seen in Luke 1:38: “Then Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” This complete subjection to God was fraught with great danger! It was certain there would be gossip and accusations that Mary had committed adultery! Engagement between a Jewish man and woman in Bible times was considered sacred – just a step away from full marriage. And the Jewish law plainly said in Leviticus 20:10, “…the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” And what would Joseph think? She surely loved this gentle carpenter.
But God had called her to a special mission. She would bear the Christ child! In her submission, she believed that her heavenly Father would faithfully handle all the details!
Next in The Time-Line of Christmas – a hasty trip to Judah.