It seems that Mary was starting to catch on to what the angel Gabriel was talking about as he delivered God’s message to her. You see, when Gabriel said, “You will be with child and give birth to a son,” Mary surely knew that he was quoting from the Old Testament book of Isaiah which tells us that “…the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son” (Isaiah 7:14 NIV).
This, however brought up a natural question for Mary…
“‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon 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 1:34-35 NIV)
Gabriel told Mary that this miraculous event would be accomplished through the power of the Highest in the Person of the Holy Spirit. Now in the original language, the word “overshadow” used here carries the idea of “covering with a cloud,” not unlike the cloud of God’s glory that also appeared from time to time in the Scriptures.
For example, when the people of Israel walked around for 40 years in the wilderness before reaching the land that God promised to give them, we’re told that God directed them through a pillar of cloud during the day (see Exodus 13:21). Later on, we can see this expressed in the New Testament by the cloud that appeared when Jesus was transfigured on the mountain while He was with His disciples (see Matthew 17:5).
This was the visible revelation of the power and presence of God and it meant that the same power of God that was revealed in the Old Testament was also going to be present in Mary’s life too. Because of this, Mary’s child would be The Holy One, different from all others, and be called the Son of God.
“Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:36-37 NIV).
These verses make a reference to a relative of Mary named Elizabeth who was also going to have a baby. This was the same baby who would later come to be known as John The Baptist (see Luke 1:5-25). So Gabriel brought Mary a promise and some evidence to back it up too. That evidence was this: Mary’s relative Elizabeth had become pregnant in her old age and if God could accomplish something like that, then He could certainly make good on His promise to Mary as well. Furthermore, we’re told that God was able to do such great things because nothing is impossible with Him- He will absolutely do what He has said.
Now check out Mary’s simple but powerful response in the next verse…
“‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May it be to me as you have said.’ Then the angel left her” (Luke 1:38 NIV).
Think about the kind of faith that Mary demonstrated here in her response. She didn’t argue, she didn’t debate, and she didn’t try to talk her way out of God’s plan for her- she simply said, “let it be to me according to your word.” In saying this, Mary’s example provides us with a good model to follow today because her response took a lot more trust in God than you might think.
First, keep in mind that Mary had just agreed to become a unwed mother in a society that had the death penalty for people who had sex before marriage.
Next, we can also think about Mary’s faith from a human viewpoint as well. For example, you’ve probably noticed how people often talk about others when they’re not around and how cruel, hateful, and abusive those comments can sometimes be. It’s likely that Mary also had to endure the whispers, gossip, and suspicious looks that were sure to follow her wherever she went.
Not only that, it’s thought that Mary was just 14-16 years old when these events occurred- maybe even younger. While it’s sometimes easy to think that people must be older and well advanced before they can do great things for God, Mary’s response to this angelic message proves that this is not always necessarily true (see also 1 Timothy 4:12).
So Mary was on board with God’s plan but there was one more family member to consider…
“Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’-which means, ‘God with us.’
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus” (Matthew 1:19-25 NIV).
It may be easy to overlook Joseph’s role in the Christmas story but let’s think about his response for a moment. For example, how would you respond if you were in Joseph’s position and your fiancée came to you and told you that she was going to have a baby and that the baby’s Father was God? Would you believe that? Probably not. So we shouldn’t be surprised to read that Joseph wanted to break off his engagement with Mary when she was found to be pregnant before their wedding ceremony.
But Joseph (who, like Mary, was almost certainly about 14-16 years old) was a person of character and integrity. He was determined to act honorably towards Mary even if seemed as if she had not acted honorably towards him before their wedding. However, we see that Joseph also moved forward on God’s plan in faith once it was revealed to him, just as Mary had done. These features of the real Christmas story are all important but sometimes easy to miss while we’re trying to avoid the holiday crush at the mall.