An Encounter with an Angel

By Marcy Barthlette

Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you. Luke 1:28

We don’t know exactly where she was…God didn’t tell us. We don’t know what she was doing at the time…He left that to our imaginations. We don’t know the kind of life she lived beyond what historians tell us and our own vague notions of a world so different from ours. We do know she was a virgin because only a virgin could be qualified for the journey that lay ahead of her. And we’re told she was very young, anything more is just conjecture. Why did God share so many tales with us through a cast of storied characters and yet leave so many blanks? I think He wanted us to search diligently to understand Him and develop a personal relationship with Him. If He made it easy, anyone could have and probably, would have, done it. But would it be lasting? How many times have we heard the admonition, “Anything worth having is worth working for?” We don’t find those words anywhere in the Bible but I think God sent them straight to the playbook carried in the hearts of moms all around our world.

So let’s take a closer look at Mary through the lens of our imaginations. She’s at her home, bent on hands and knees, weeding the family garden, covered in dirt, and daydreaming of spending time with friends. When an angel named Gabriel appears at her side casting a large shadow over her, she pulls back, startled at the presence of this stranger in her garden. What should she do? Should she scream? Should she run? Today, she would likely pull her cell phone from her pocket and dial 911. But this is Mary’s world and the standard of the day compels her to be subservient to a man. She is confronted by a choice; listen to what the stranger says or flee and, perhaps, pay a very high price. But this man figure before her displays qualities of compassion and says:

Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.
Luke 1: 30-31

Mary listens and finds herself thrust into a future she never imagined. You see, this young girl already has a life plan. She is promised to a man from her community, where they will make a home, raise their children, and live a typical life of that time. But the stranger brings news that will change everything, turn her life upside down. Mary is to conceive a child and not in a typical fashion. This seed will be miraculously implanted by God himself and nurtured inside Mary’s belly until it is time for Him to make His appearance.

Mary is overwhelmed at the announcement…how can this be? She has certainly never been with a man and can’t yet grasp the meaning of Gabriel’s news. As he explains her circumstances, she becomes more confident that she can carry out the task set before her, and she agrees to move forward in faith.

And Mary said, Yes, I see it all now: I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say.
Luke 1:37 MSG

And the angel departs as suddenly as he arrived. In his absence, probably a little panic sets in. What does she do about the man she is about to marry, the man she has been promised to for some time, a man who knows her as a virgin, one set aside for him alone? Does she tell him this extraordinary tale of wonder? Of course, in time he will know so perhaps it’s best to just spill the whole story and suffer the consequences, consequences that can lead to stoning and abandonment. Even if he accepts her story, he will surely turn his back on her. What man would want a woman who carries a child from some source other than himself? And if he does walk away from her, how will she raise this child alone in a society that certainly will neither accept nor condone unwed motherhood?

What of her family? How do they react to this unbelievable and startling news? We can only imagine the concern they will have for her, but that will come only after they express their disappointment at her supposed indiscretion. At what point do they believe the story as she tells it and what do they do to help her on her journey? How do they explain her situation to other family members and friends? And speaking of friends, how do Mary’s contemporaries react to her news? It surely is the hottest topic among social circles in her community. Single motherhood is simply not acceptable and for a girl to dishonor her betrothed in such a way is reprehensible. It just isn’t done and yet, she does. When do they all learn or will they ever learn that Mary is on a special mission…to birth the Son of God here on earth as a human?

Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
Luke 1:46-48 NLT

(Join me next week to explore Joseph’s reaction to the news…..)

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