The Birth of Jesus Foretold
“Oh, highly favored lady.” Poor Mary. Imagine, if you will, a virginal teenager, betrothed to an older man (not necessarily an old man, but not a kid), and getting this message from an angel.
Yikes. Cognitive dissonance, anyone?
As a Jewish girl, Mary would surely have heard many stories about God. Likewise, she would know about angels as messengers. But this was not the kind of message that she had ever heard of before. The Holy Spirit would give her a baby, and he would be son of God. Even considering the implications for her betrothal and Joseph’s reaction—remembering that women were barely more than chattel in those days, regardless of whether they were Roman, Greek or Jew. The very idea that, out of nowhere, she would bear the burden of the future or her people, on the word of an angel, is beyond reckoning.
Each of us, in our lives, gets handed some sort of responsibility now and again that we don’t really want; that we didn’t expect; that we’re not sure we’re up to. If we accept that burden, we do it because, somewhere inside, we have faith that we will be able to carry it. But Mary is being asked so much, so unexpectedly. How did she do it? Where did that faith come from? Even Jesus, at the time of his final trial, had known for a long time what would be expected of him.
So Mary, I think, representing the weakest possible member of the Jewish community, takes on the greatest responsibility imaginable, and does so without being able to really explain it to others. She risks slander and scandal, maybe even ostracism, because she believes that this is what she must do.
And it won’t be the last time she’ll be asked to bear a terrible burden as a mother to the Son of God.
“Be like Mary” is not a phrase that any man is taught in his youth. But how could I ever aspire higher than that?