Mary was quite young when she was visited by the angel Gabriel. Most scholars think she was around 13 years old. Mary was terrified when she first saw the angel. After all, who talks to an angel? But Gabriel said, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Mary showed incredible courage and bravery as she took in this news that she would not only have a baby but that he would be God’s son. After all, she wasn’t even married! Gabriel explained that God would work a miracle so that the Son of God would be her son. In the Gospel of Matthew, an angel tells Joseph, Mary’s fiancé, the same thing.
Gabriel told Mary to name her baby Jesus. The angel explained that Jesus “will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The name Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Yeshua. This is also where we get the name Joshua, which means “God saves” or “God is salvation.” Jesus more than lived up to His name. He is the Son of God. He saves everyone who believes in Him.
By the end of her conversation with the angel, Mary accepted this news and said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
While she was pregnant, Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was also pregnant. As soon as she saw Mary, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed I the fruit of your womb! For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:42-45) Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months during her pregnancy.
When the time came closer to when Jesus would be born, Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem to participate in a census commanded by the Romans who ruled in Israel. It was common for people to have to travel back to their family’s original home for a census. The census probably would have included a count of everyone in a household and all the property they owned. Rome also may have made everyone pay an extra tax. Mary rode on a donkey and Joseph walked next to them.
Bethlehem was so filled up with people coming for the census that there was no room for Mary or Joseph to stay at an inn, or hotel. So they stayed in a stable, where animals were kept. Mary knew it was time for the baby to come. So Joseph helped her and soon baby Jesus was born!
On that quiet night, angels appeared to shepherds in the field. Can you imagine what that must have looked like? The sky was filled with a “heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’ ” (Luke 2:14)
Mary “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19).
God in Action
A long time ago, God made a promise to King David: his throne would last forever (2 Samuel 7:16). God sent His Son Jesus into the world to complete the story of Israel—the story that was told in the Old Testament. Matthew starts with a list of names. But this wasn’t just any list. It includes Abraham and David. Jesus came from a line that included the very first Israelite and Israel’s greatest king.
God chose Mary to be part of His amazing plan to send the Son of God to earth. Even though she was young and understandably afraid of the angel Gabriel, she accepted the role God had given her. In fact, she praised God in what is known as the “magnificat,” which begins with her saying, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” (Luke 1:46)
We all have an important part to serve in God’s story. What do you think yours might be?