Have you ever considered what the first Christmas meant to Mary?
“God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary” (Luke 1:26-27).
We pick up the story with the appearance of the mighty angel Gabriel.
“And coming in, he said to her, ‘Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was greatly troubled at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this might be. And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end’” (Luke 1:28-33).
I doubt Mary heard anything after the announcement about conceiving and bearing a son. What she was told about this son was certainly beyond her grasp, but she understood the immediate implication.
“How shall this be since I am a virgin?”
The angel explained it to Mary: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35-36). With humble acceptance, Mary said, “Behold, the bondservant of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word.”
Think about it!
Mary is just a teenager. Can you imagine the turmoil and mixed emotion? This is absolutely amazing but who will believe it? If she tells anyone she be called a liar or accused of insanity. Worse, she’ll be accused of covering up adultery! The law considered a betrothed woman who became pregnant an adulteress. And what will Joseph think? Will he feel betrayed?
The Scripture says, “Joseph her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, had in mind to divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:19).
Being a kind and godly man, Joseph desired to protect Mary’s reputation. And apart from the angel’s intervention and confirmation of Mary’s divinely appointed role, he would have followed through with his intention to divorce Mary.
“Today as I read the accounts of Jesus’ birth,” wrote Philip Yancey, “I tremble to think of the fate of the world resting on the responses of two rural teenagers. How many times must Mary have gone over the angel’s words as she felt the Son of God kicking against the wall of her uterus? How many times must Joseph have second-guessed his own encounter with an angel—just a dream?—as he endured the hot shame of living among neighbors who could plainly see the changing shape of the woman he planned to marry?”
As the story continues, Mary threw a few things together for a journey to visit her cousin Elizabeth. The angel had mentioned Elizabeth’s pregnancy so perhaps Mary went looking for confirmation of her circumstances. Elizabeth confirmed for Mary what God had planned and Mary rejoiced in God for all He had done (Luke 1:39-40).
After staying with Elizabeth for about three months, Mary returned to her home. Then, as “the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she brought forth a son. And her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her.”
“The whole countryside is talking about the miracle of Elizabeth’s healed womb; meanwhile, Mary has to hide the shame of her own miracle. A few months later, the birth of John the Baptist took place with great fanfare, complete with midwives, doting relatives, and the traditional village chorus celebrating the birth of a Jewish male. Six months after that, Jesus was born far from home, with no midwife, extended family, or village chorus present. A male head of household would have sufficed for the Roman census; did Joseph drag his pregnant wife along to Bethlehem in order to spare her the ignominy of childbirth in her home village?” (Philip Yancey)
The gospel account paints a lonely and lowly picture of the nativity, “…she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:6-8).
Mary’s willingness to be the Mother of Messiah brought her great blessing mixed with enormously difficult consequences. Yet Mary said: “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”
Mary was the first to accept Jesus on His terms, regardless of the cost.
As with Mary, the claims of the Lordship of Jesus call each of us to paths of self-denial and sacrifice. Mary embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ in a way that set a marvelous example for all of us.
“My soul exalts the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For he has regard for the humble state of His bondslave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name.
And His mercy is upon generation after generation
toward those who fear Him.
He has done mighty deeds with His arm;
He has scattered those who are proud in the
thoughts of their heart.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exalted those who are humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things;
And sent away the rich empty- handed.
He has given help to Israel His servant,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and his offspring forever.” (Luke 1:46-55)