As we start the journey toward Christmas and begin the Advent season, we see many symbols and images related to the birth of Jesus. Most are very familiar to us. Sometimes they are so familiar we forget some of the details that do not appear as they were in the real living scene in the story.
For example, most images of the manger scene give us a glimpse of Mary as a young woman who might be in her early twenties. Living manger scenes in many churches this season usually have a young adult woman in the role, but if we look at what we know of the culture and times we see those images do not capture the truth.
We need to remember that Mary was engaged to Joseph and in her time and culture; she would likely have become engaged at about 12 or 13 years of age.
Our times and culture are so much different, but as I look at my 13 year old granddaughter I have begun to reflect a bit differently on the opening scene where Gabriel comes to Mary.
Imagine Mary going about her day wondering what it was going to be like to marry Joseph soon. They had known each other for some time and he seemed nice enough, but she still enjoyed helping her mother around the house rather than being the one responsible to handle and manage all the household chores. She really had not mastered all of the ways her mother made every dish special with this or that spice or seasoning. She still loved playing with the other girls in the village any chance she had, but she knew those days would soon be behind her.
Mary had not begun to wrap her mind around what it would be like to live with Joseph and see to all his needs. He seemed kind and gentle enough, but there was so much she didn’t know. Somehow she had to trust that God would be with her as He had her mother when she married her father.
On the day the angel Gabriel appeared to her, her world crashed into a different dimension. She had heard others speak of angels and heavenly messengers, but she had never seen or heard one herself. Yet this being of light in front of her, speaking so clearly and with such authority, was unmistakably just such a messenger. She could hardly grasp the message he brought. How could she give birth to a child?
She had never been with Joseph or any other man. She was a virgin and not even sure she was ready for that relationship with Joseph. What would Joseph think? Would he believe her when she told him what the angel said? Would her parents believe her?
Yet here she was being told God favored her! She was to carry and give birth to a son. The angel even told her his name. Jesus. Even more astounding was to hear that He would be called the Son of God and was the long-awaited Messiah.
Her lips mouthed the question, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
The angel told her it would be by the Holy Spirit, but she could not imagine what that meant. And now to hear Elizabeth was pregnant as well when everyone knew she was old and barren? What was happening?
Her mind could not take it all in, but her heart responded even if her mind had not caught up.
She agreed in one significant split second in time to be available to God for what He wanted to do. She did not hesitate. She did not doubt. She obeyed.
She was possibly only 13 and yet without hesitation she yielded to God’s call upon her life.
God had chosen Mary, called her, knew her heart. He also knows me. He knows you.
It causes me to pause.
Have I made myself available to Him and to whatever He has asked me to be or do?
Have I yielded without fully understanding what it would cost or mean?
Have I resisted out of fear, doubt, uncertainty, or unbelief?
As I journey toward Bethlehem and the familiar story, I wonder if I or even you should read Luke’s telling of the story in Luke 1:38 more closely and consider Mary’s response as we ponder our own.
“And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word….”