But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."
"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" Luke 1:30-34
Hebrews 11 says that faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Our culture pushes us in a different direction. It tells us to hope in what we have and be certain only of what we see. The contrast is stark and destructive. Since the Garden, God has called his people to trust their lives to what they cannot see. Two thousand years ago a young girl, most likely a teenager, was called upon to have faith in what was unseen. Notice the sequence of statements in the angel's announcement to Mary.
You have found favor with God.
You will become pregnant and give birth to a Son.
You will name him Jesus.
He will be great and ascend to the throne of David.
Mary then asks the obvious question – how can this happen since I am a virgin? Her question is not one of doubt, but of one of facilitation. She has accepted the angel at his word. She is simply asking how it will happen, because she has no husband and is a virgin. Her response is of a totally different sort than Zechariah's when he was told of that he would become a father. Like Mary, Zechariah was troubled and shaken by the sudden appearance of the angel of God. Like Mary, Zechariah was told of a wonderful birth, a birth that he and his wife had longed for. He was to have a son! Remember that Zechariah was a priest who was commended for knowing the commandments of God. He would have known the story of Abraham well. He knew that the being in front of him was an angel, and that angels spoke the very words of God. Yet he responded with doubt. He challenged the angel and asked how can I be sure of this? So, even though he knew the Scriptures, knew of the power of God to grant birth to those who were past the age of childbearing, he doubted and demanded proof so he could believe. He did not respond in faith. Sadly, Zechariah’s response was much like our own tendencies – we cannot be certain of what we do not see.
But Mary, this young girl, simply asked how this would happen. The angel then revealed news even more stunning than the announcement that she would have a child who would become a great King. Mary was told that she would become pregnant by the Spirit of God! There would be no human father for this boy.
The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God." Luke 1:35-37
Mary was confronted with an even more amazing scenario than Zechariah was. She would give birth as a virgin. The angel then said what was obvious to him, but elusive for us – nothing is impossible with God. Mary responded to this in faith in verse 38:
"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said."
Mary was certain of what she did not see. She took God at his word. She did not ask how can I be sure? She simply says may it be to me as you have said. There can be no doubt that Mary was aware of the disgrace this pregnancy would bring to her. It would surely mean giving up her marriage to Joseph for he would know that he was not the father of the child within her. Her betrothal would end not in the joyous celebration of marriage, but in disgrace and shame. She would become an outcast to the religious community of which she was a part. Yet, she viewed herself as the Lord’s servant. What he asked, she would embrace.
At this point we must compare Mary’s response to Zachariah’s. When told how he would have a son, Zechariah demanded to know how he could be sure that God would do what he said he would do. The angel’s statement was that Elizabeth would become pregnant as she and Zechariah continued to have sexual relations. Mary was told that she would become pregnant without engaging in sexual relations with a man. Zechariah doubts God’s word; Mary believes.
Parents, it should be encouraging to you that this young woman responded in faith. This faith can reside in your children as well. I can hear the response – nice idea, but you don’t know my children, that kind of response could never happen with them. I only ask that you remember the angel’s words – nothing is impossible with God. Perhaps we don’t expect faith in our children because we don’t live in faith ourselves. Perhaps we ask how can I be sure? instead of saying may it be to me. Doubt is expressed when we think, if I return kindness to my spouse’s insensitivity how can I be sure that I won’t be taken advantage of? Doubt is expressed when you think that pleasant words are not enough to call your children to obey – they need to know that you are angry and won’t stand for their misbehavior. Before we expect a response of faith in our children, we must live in faith ourselves.
Tomorrow is Christmas Day. This day means many things. But most of all it means that nothing is impossible with God. May it be to us as God has said.