Picture this: she may have been washing, cleaning, or sitting quietly somewhere when suddenly, this figure appeared. Was he huge? Was he shining? Was he dressed in all white? Was she terrified? I would have been! Had she heard about angels? Well, she was a Hebrew girl; she knew the Holy Scriptures. But reading about something is entirely different than experiencing it.
And he appeared while she was alone and spoke to her—which was probably not the norm in those days for ladies to speak with not-female strangers. He said, “Hi, my name is Gabriel”—well, that’s not exactly in the text, but his name is in there, so maybe he introduced himself? “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). Here she was, a young teenager and she had “found favor with God” (v.30)? An angel was standing in front of her. Yep. That sounds terrifying!
Then Gabriel said, “Do not be afraid, Mary” (v.30). Oh, well, since you mentioned it, that’s easy. An angel who knew her name appeared from heaven and said, Don’t be afraid! Deep breath, Mary—take courage!
Maybe she sat down? (If I wrote a screenplay, I would block it that way.) I hope she sat down for the next piece of information. “Listen carefully: you will conceive in your womb and give birth to a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and eminent and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob (Israel) forever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:31-33 AMP).
Mary had a single question, which was very fair considering the circumstances. I probably would have had more than one question, but maybe that’s just me. There was the tiny detail of her virginal status—so how could this happen? Gabriel had the answer: “For with God nothing [is or ever] shall be impossible” (v.37 AMP).
Mary heard this news and the reassuring declaration from Gabriel. Maybe she thought about it all for a minute, maybe two. But it’s what happens next that turns this story quite dramatically (as if an angel out of nowhere isn’t enough). She chose to do the courageous thing—she said YES! “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word” (v.38 AMP). Wow!
She was brave to have responded in that way. But her grit didn’t stop there. Then she had the more difficult task of telling people. That would have taken more courage, I think. She would have had to tell her parents, obviously. Then Joseph, to whom she was engaged—yikes! Her extended family found out, then her friends and neighbors.
If she told the truth about what Gabriel said, would anyone believe her? Her pregnancy would eventually be obvious; they would have to make decisions for the future—that would require even more moxie.
But guess what? She did it. And she was able to do it because God helped her just when she needed it most. Joseph, her promised husband, is described as being a “just and righteous man” (Matt 1:19 amp) but was going to “send her away and divorce her quietly” (v. 19). God gave Joseph a dream where an angel of the Lord spoke to him: “[D]o not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a Son, and you shall name Him Jesus (The Lord is salvation, for He will save His people from their sins” (v. 20-21). Hallelujah for that revelation!
God’s help continued. Mary visited her cousin, Elizabeth, who was also miraculously pregnant. The Lord provided a kinship between these two women in only the way He can. Mary didn’t go through her supernatural pregnancy alone. “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, her baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and empowered by Him” (Luke 1:41 AMP). Then she began to rejoice and praise the Lord! “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (v. 42). How about that! The Holy Spirit showed Elizabeth what had happened! Remember, there was no mail, telegraph, phone—only Holy Spirit revelation.
I can only imagine what these two pregnant ladies spoke to each other about that day. Did they share about all the unusual physical changes that happen to a woman carrying the life of another? Did they complain about losing sleep or about shared discomforts? Who knows. But the small portion of their conversation that is recorded in Scripture goes on to say that Elizabeth said to Mary, “And blessed is she who believed and confidently trusted that there would be a fulfillment of the things that were spoken to her from the Lord” (v. 45).
And there it is—faith leading to courage. Mary’s faith and belief that God is trustworthy was what caused and sustained her courage.
Here is the part I love most—Mary’s celebration! It is so big and joyful it gets its own name in Christian liturgy, the Magnificat. It is a word derived from Latin which means “magnify.” The essence of Mary’s song of joy: “My soul magnifies and exalts the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior For He who is mighty has done great things for me; And holy is His name” (v. 46-47,49 AMP). That is faith! A wonderful thing about faith is it will give birth to courage.
Let’s use that word, magnify, and look at Mary. Let’s examine closely so we really see her. When we magnify these events, we can see her faith and courage clearly. Courage in the face of encounters with the supernatural, family drama, cultural difficulty, an uncertain future, and obstacles not recorded in the book.
The stories in God’s Word are more than just simple tales. They are templates, road maps, keys to unlock and reveal the way God works in us, through us, and for us. Mary’s story can be ours (the angel visitation part is a maybe)! Observe her situation and consider your own. Are you facing faith challenges? Is God urging you to do something unplanned, unexpected? Now, look at her courage. Do you want to say “yes” to God? Do you want that kind of courage? I hope you do. What a great place to start. Ask God for faith that produces courage to say, “Yes!”
Years later, when Jesus was teaching and ministering to many people. He had an encounter with a man who could have learned something from Mary’s example. The man told Jesus in Mark 9:24 (AMP), “I do believe; help (me overcome) my unbelief!” Did Jesus help him? Yes! Will God help you and me? Yes!
This Christmas, as you decorate with angels and a nativity set, look closely at Mary. Be bold to ask God for faith to overcome unbelief and for that faith to produce courage to follow Jesus. You and I, like Mary, can choose to say YES to His plan for our lives!
Jean Thomason has more than thirty-five years of experience as a musical performer, worship leader, songwriter, author, and conference speaker to women, parents, teachers, and children’s ministers. She is also the living embodiment of the joyful children’s musical character, Miss PattyCake. Through this brightly costumed character, Jean plants biblical truths into little lives, teaching God’s Word through music, stories, and fun activities, while helping equip parents to lay a spiritual foundation. Her recently published book is Sharing God’s Big Love with Little Lives. Additionally, Jean is the brand ambassador for Momentum Influencer Network, a community of faith and family bloggers. She and her husband have two grown children and live in Franklin, Tennessee.
Scripture quotations marked AMP are taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 2015 by The
Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)