James and Joseph, Judah and Simon, you know Jesus is alive! What do you think of him now? No longer can he be for you the older brother who made good yokes and then went off as a preacher and became a bit queer! You have to think about him all over again!
Perhaps, my sons, I need to tell you some of the things I have had hidden in my heart all these years. You need to know that Jesus is not your full brother as you have always imagined - Joseph was not the father of Jesus. Don't get me wrong, sons. Joseph has been my only husband, and the only man I ever had. What a dear and wonderful man he has been! What a strong and caring father for you boys and your sisters!
How well I remember those words! I saw an angel - as clearly as I now see you! Unexpected and unannounced! I got a fright, I can tell you! And that's what he said - "Peace be with you! The Lord is with you and has greatly blessed you!" (v.28) Those words are true for you too. I have never thought that greeting was exclusive to me. God's blessing reaches out to all and his peace is for all who will receive it.
But why an angel? Why should I receive a heavenly visitor? Why me? What does it all mean? I had trusted the Lord since a child. I had listened to the Scripture read at the synagogue each week. I knew the Lord's expectations of us - and his promises too!
But you know what it is like when you go down to the village. Someone comes up to you and says, "Hello there! How are things today? I am so glad to see you!" Yet there is something in their manner or the look in their eyes. You think, "This is no ordinary, casual conversation! There's more to it than that. He has some favour to ask or something important to say to me "
Perhaps that's how it is whenever an angel visits someone - because angels are the Lord's messengers and always have something to say or do! His words certainly had me wondering.
The messenger could see I was deeply troubled and went on, "Don't be afraid, Mary; God has been gracious to you. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus."
That really raised questions - and alarm! I thought back to Hannah, the mother of Samuel. She had prayed, "Almighty Lord, look at me, your servant! See my trouble and remember me! Don't forget me! Give me a son!" (1 Sam. 1.11) The Lord was gracious to her and she gave birth to a son. But she was married! Here was I - single - a virgin - engaged to Joseph, but with no intention of entering marriage in any other state! How could such a pregnancy be a sign of the Lord's grace to me?
But the messenger went on, "Jesus will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High God. The Lord God will make him a king, as his ancestor David was, and he will be the king of the descendants of Jacob for ever; his kingdom will never end!"
What did all that mean? That Jesus would be no ordinary person, that he would be called and recognised in some special way as "Son of the Most High God", that he would be - but dare I even think it? - that he would be the promised Messiah! All of this was comforting, puzzling, disturbing
My big question was, "How?" There is only one way a woman becomes pregnant. There is only one way a virgin becomes pregnant - then she is a virgin no more! And our society is not very kind to the unmarried to whom it happens! So I asked my question, "I am a virgin - and plan to continue to be a virgin right up till the day I am married - how, then, can this be?"
The messenger replied, "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and God's power will rest upon you. For this reason the holy child will be called the Son of God." So this pregnancy would happen by a special act of God - without a man! It would come about directly through the power of God, by the working of the Holy Spirit. That didn't tell me much, except that if it was the work of God I needn't be afraid.
"Remember your relative Elizabeth. It is said that she cannot have children, but she herself is now six months pregnant, even though she is very old. For there is nothing that God cannot do."
Yes, I remembered! An amazing story! You've heard it too! John the Baptist, cruelly beheaded by Herod! When he was born, his father Zechariah prophesied, "You, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High God. You will go ahead of the Lord to prepare his road for him" (Lk.1.76). I have often thought of that and wondered - Jesus the Son of the Most High God and John the prophet of the Most High God.
There is nothing God cannot do - otherwise, he wouldn't be God! This world is his creation and mostly he works through it, though at times his power rises above it to do some new thing.
Well, the Lord was planning something new and he was going to do it through me. So I said, "I am the Lord's servant; may it happen to me as you have said." I didn't really understand all the how and why, but I was ready and available for the Lord's will.
And from that point I began to notice those little changes that a woman does. I knew I was pregnant - a virgin, never having had a man! No, it's not how it usually happens at all. But then Jesus was no ordinary person - he was, and yes, he is, the Son of the Most High God!
James, Joseph, Judah and Simon, what do you think of Jesus now? You have seen him, James, alive from the dead (1 Cor.15.7). The Lord has been gracious to you, my sons - gracious to all of us! My earnest prayer for all of you is that you will say, "I am my Lord's servant, ready for all his will!"