But the angel said to her, “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. 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 Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
"How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on 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 unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
Luke 1: 30-37
The song “Mary Did You Know” by Mark Lowry is probably among my top two favorite Christmas songs ever! (It’s between this and O Come, Emmanuel). Anyway, I just love this song because it reveals Christ through a series of imaginary questions the singer asks Mary. Growing up Catholic, I always thought of Mary as this celestial being that was not really mortal. This song, however, brings up Mary’s humanity. She was just a young woman that found herself suddenly expecting a divine baby miraculously conceived. I mean, how mind-blowing would that have been?
But I can’t help to wonder…how much did she really understand? What did she really, truly know?
As a good Jewish girl, she most likely knew the implications of the Angel’s words. She knew the magnitude of the announcement involving her unborn baby and how “He would receive the throne of his father David and that he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever…and that His kingdom will never end…” That’s a reference, a clear reference to the Promised Ruler from Bethlehem the prophet Micah prophesized about some centuries earlier. She certainly must have studied that. The words of the angel must have ringed a bell in her mind. However, her question…her reply to the angel’s magnificent words about the divinity of the event…was very mundane, very mortal.
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
Mary showed her humanity in her question. She was concerned with the direct implications of this news into her life. The practicality of her concern bypassed the spiritual content of the revelation. I don’t think there is any way a person could grasp the magnitude of such words in their entirety in just one moment. God understands our minds, He created them! So He knows how much we can take. He knows the right dose, and He knows what we can process at any given time. Out of all the things the Angel said, she perfectly understood one thing: “I’m in trouble.”
That’s why part of God’s message included the tidbit of information regarding her cousin Elizabeth. There was no Facebook back then, so it is quite possible Mary did not know about Elizabeth’s pregnancy yet. After all, Elizabeth was only closing the second trimester. Those who have dealt with fertility issues usually tend to not announce their pregnancies to the world until they are farther advanced in fear something may go wrong during the early stages. So my guess is that Mary did not know and the Angel’s instructions were to tell her so she would have a place to go to, to hide while she gathered her thoughts and began to digest the idea of the new life ahead.
Even though, it is pretty certain that nobody else has had to receive the news that we are going to carry the Living God in our wombs, not so unlike Mary, often, we too face life-altering news that leave us scared, confused, paralyzed. In many cases, when confronting such types of news, there are a million things going through our minds, but only one takes precedence. It is impossible to process everything at once. We have to do it one at a time. And, we usually start with the most practical and work our way up to the more abstract implications. Ask anyone who has gone through a cancer diagnosis…they can probably relate the overwhelming sensation of overload that goes on in the brain at first, until you begin to sort things out and discern the first steps to take.
Mary did know. Of course she knew. An Angel came and told her! But in God’s endless mercy, He provided a way for Mary to process the information so she would not become overloaded. God allowed Mary to digest small bites at a time as He guided her to a place of refuge in the warmth of her elder relative who was going through something similar in a way.
We too, know. In our hour when unprecedented news arrives, we too know. But The Lord holds us by the hand and leads us to a place of refuge where He can minister to us and calm our fears long enough for our brains to begin to process what’s ahead. Let’s trust that He who has been Faithful before, will be Faithful again and forever!