Yesterday afternoon the sun streamed shafts of light through the blinds, warming my cheek and highlighting the page I was reading in the Bible about the birth of Christ. Suddenly I grew hungry to know more about this magical story. I’ve heard it since I was old enough to speak, and I have known that it is actually not a story. It is truth. It really happened! A long time ago my parents taught me the distinction between the fictional account of the North Pole, Santa Claus, Elves, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and the non-fiction account in the Bible of Jesus’ miraculous circumstances of birth. From the first chapter of Luke, we learn that:
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you![d]”
Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.
Confused and disturbed indeed! The angel Gabriel had appeared to Daniel long before this time and then recently appeared to Zechariah. Both Daniel and Zechariah were filled with fear at his presence, even though Daniel said that the angel looked like a man. There must have been something about him that struck awe in them, though. The presence of this angel not only just appearing but telling her that she was blessed and that the Lord was with her had her very agitated! The Greek word is diatarrasso, and it means agitated greatly. Yea, I think I would have been greatly agitated too!
“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel[e] forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
Mary had found charis with God. It means grace, or the spiritual condition of someone who is governed by divine grace. There are no mysteries to the meanings of the original Greek words here. The angel clearly states that Mary will conceive (the word means conceive), and give birth to a son (meaning the same), and that he shall be called Jesus.
Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
Luke used the word ginosko for virgin. It is a Jewish idiom for intercourse between a man and a woman. Get ready for the miraculous!
The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she’s now in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.[f]”
The Holy Spirit will eperchomai — cover over, descend upon and operate in — Mary. And the supernatural power — dynamis — (power for performing miracles) of the Most High God will literally throw a shadow over — episkiazo — Mary. We have all three persons of the Godhead in these verses: God the Father (Most High God), God the Son (baby to born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God), and God the Holy Spirit (The Holy Spirit will come upon you). It is wonderful that something so significant and miraculous as Jesus’ birth is attended to by all three persons of the Trinity. The angel goes on to tell Mary about Elizabeth’s pregnancy in her old age. Why would he do that? Perhaps to encourage the young Mary who is likely dumbfounded and confused by what she’s just heard. Can you imagine? And then we are reminded: nothing is impossible with God.
Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.
Mary showed a great deal of courage and faith to respond in that way. Earlier in the chapter we learn that Zechariah questioned Gabriel’s message from God about the coming pregnancy of his barren wife — and then he lost the ability to speak because of his doubt. But Mary did not doubt. She had the attitude of a servant — the Lord’s servant. She offered up her own life for her God.
This nonfiction account has me sitting here in awe at those who have gone before me. Do I have the attitude of the Lord’s servant? Have I offered up my day to him? It’s ironic that the very holiday we have set aside for Him — Christmas — is often the time we push him to the back burner. Insert a whiny tone of voice and see inside my mind:
- Why am I baking these cookies? Oh no, I just burned an entire batch (insert bad word here).
- The dogs just unwrapped — and ate — an entire package (it was chocolate). What a cotton-pickin mess!
- I can’t stand this traffic! Can’t you people merge?
- What do you mean you don’t have any of this kind of toy left? I stood in line for how long?
- You mean to tell me it will cost me over $100 to get this package there by tomorrow?
Christ is God with us all year, all the time. Not just at Christmas time. And if the thoughts that have run through my head are any indication, now is the time of year I really need Him! I need the Christmas miracle to wash over me just as the shafts of sunshine warmed my face yesterday afternoon. Today while my sweet daughter and hunky hubby are busy concocting and creating a homemade present for me, I will sit back, drink some tea, and spend some precious time with Jesus, reflecting on the miraculous.