In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting 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 call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy--the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
How would we respond if we received the news that Gabriel delivered to Mary? As far as we know, she has never seen an angel. Of course she is afraid. Hearing of the Lord’s gracious favor and presence is encouraging, but then comes the announcement. A child—her child!—will reign forever on David’s throne. The news would make anyone’s heart race. And one more thing: she’s never been with a man. “How will this be?” is a fair question. The Lord is calling her to trust Him for a promise whose fulfillment requires doing the impossible. How would we respond? Would we trust that God can do the impossible? When our fear and God’s favor collide, faith grows as we remember God’s faithfulness.
Sarah was old and barren (Genesis 11:30), but the Lord chose her to bear Isaac, Abraham’s long-awaited child of promise. Rebekah was barren (Genesis 25:21), but the Lord blessed her with Jacob, the father of the 12 tribes. Leah was hated (Genesis 29:21), but the Lord opened her womb and she gave birth to Judah, the forerunner of a Lion whose roar would silence sin and death. A nameless Levite (Exodus 2) faced Pharaoh’s threat of infanticide, but the Lord delivered Moses to her—then delivered him all the way to Pharaoh’s household—that he might one day deliver Israel. Ruth was widowed and childless, but the Lord brought her a husband and a child, Obed, the grandfather of King David. Elizabeth was old and barren (Luke 1:7), just like Sarah, but the Lord chose her to bear John the Baptist.
Again and again, our sovereign Lord chooses to do the impossible as He writes His story of redemption. In choosing the barren, hated, hopeless woman, God makes it clear that salvation is nothing less than the Lord doing the impossible: bringing life from death and hope from hopelessness. And if barrenness and genocide are not enough, for His grand entrance the Lord overcomes the ultimate obstacle to having a child: virginity.
What impossible obstacles are we facing? Where do our fears collide with God’s favor? When we hold our circumstances up to God’s promises, what makes us ask: “How will this be?” If we learn anything from Mary, we learn that the answer is not: Because of who we are and what we can do. The Lord will do what He has promised in our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit, “for nothing will be impossible with God.” As we reflect on Mary and all these women, I believe the Lord wants us to see more than a string of medical miracles. He wants us to trust in His relentless love, a love that overcomes all obstacles to unite us with Himself.
At Christmas, we don’t just celebrate the coming of the Baby. We celebrate the arrival of the Bridegroom. God’s people are already betrothed to Christ, and a wedding is coming that will make the greatest earthly celebration seem dull. “How will this be?” I think we know the answer. Lord, let it be to us according to Your Word.