And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.(Luke 1:26-33)
Our gospel proceeds from the temple, with it’s beautiful but interrupted service, the throngs of worshippers, Priests, the smell of sacrifice and of incense, the ancient tapestries, the sounds of songs, prayers and hymns echoing throughout the sanctuary, to a small town perched upon a hill in the Galilee district of Judea.
There sat Nazareth, on the northern border of what in the days of Joshua was bequeathed by God , to the tribe of Zebulon. The Angel Gabriel was sent to a private home in Nazareth, to make a momentous announcement to a young woman of Nazareth, a direct descendant of King David, thus fulfilling the prediction of Isaiah,
Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.(Isaiah 9:1-2)
The Angelic greeting must have stunned the virgin, “Hail, thou that art highly favored…”. What could this mean?
“The Lord is with thee”, this saying would have reminded the devout Jewess of the saying of the Angel before a great deliverance in Judges, when Gideon was told, “The Lord is with Thee…”.
The Angel then announced that Mary is “blessed among all women…”, then proceeded to tell her in so many words, that she had been chosen to be the woman, who would bring into the world the “Seed of the woman”announced in Genesis 3:15.
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
God had announced it first to Satan, after he had seduced the first man and woman into joining his rebellion, that salvation would come to man, through the woman, that is, “Seed of the woman”.One born solely of a woman would crush the serpent’s head, but not without immense pain and grief, for the serpent would bruise his heel.
How could a man be called the “Seed of a woman”? Everyone knows that we are all born of the union of the seed of a man, and the egg of the woman. What could possibly be meant by the seed of the woman, other than someone who would come , born of a virgin.
You will conceive in your womb and bear a son and you shall call his name, Jesus… A very familiar saying among the Rabbi’s and pious in the Judaism of the first century was of those named before birth in scripture,
Isaac, Ishmael, Moses, Solomon, Josiah, and ‘the Name of the Messiah, Whom may the Holy One, blessed be His Name, bring quickly in our days! (Eidersheim,the Life and times of Jesus the Messiah)
He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the highest; and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His Father David, And He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there shall be no end…”.
Ages and Ages earlier, at the beginning of time, another Angel (this one was fallen) had a conversation with the first woman,(her husband was there but didn’t protect her), and talked her into rejecting God, her benevolent Creator. In reaching out for the fruit, she repudiated the moral authority of God, so that she and her husband could decide for themselves ‘good and evil’, and thus make themselves to be “as gods’.
She said in effect, “Not thy will Oh God, but mine be done…”.
This act of rebellion by the woman and her husband became the fountain head of all sin, misery, brokenness, horror, evil, and every tear shed in bitter anguish of heart ever since.Truly the wages of Adam’s sin is death, and death passed upon all of us, as Adam’s children.
But in this gospel of Luke, we see the antidote to the Woman and the fallen Angel. This time the woman is one of a fallen race, but the Angel is not fallen, he is Gabriel, “The might of God”. He brings a proposition to the woman, from heaven, staggering in its implications for good, and for reproach.
She needed to know how this would be…not in the same demand for a sign as Zechariah, who should have known better.
In Mary’s case, a pregnancy outside of marriage would bear the possibility of great reproach and misunderstanding. This is not unbelief, rather a genuine need for detail, to satisfy moral concerns.
Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible.
The child would be conceived by the Holy Spirit, He would be the Son of God. In mercy God also gave her a sign, for her formerly barren and older cousin Elizabeth was now six months pregnant.
The moment in Nazareth was every bit as pregnant as the moment in Genesis three when Eve pondered that the fruit looked good, and probably would make her wise… thus did she take it and eat it, saying “no” to God.
And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
But in the most beautiful way possible, the little virgin of Nazareth said Yes to God…Be it unto me according to thy Word!