February 19, Thursday
Six months later Gabriel was given another assignment. This time to the humble village in northern Israel, Nazareth. There a young girl named Mary, who was probably in her teens, was awaiting her upcoming marriage to a man named Joseph. The angel appeared to her in her house with this announcement: “Good news! The Lord is about to give you the highest honor any woman could have!”
Needless to say, Mary was as unprepared for this as Zacharias had been in the temple. Seeing the stunned look on her face, Gabriel continued, “God is so pleased with you that He’s chosen you to become the mother of the promised Messiah! When He is born, you’ll name Him Jesus; and someday He will take the throne of David and rule forever!”
Mary’s response wasn’t the same as Zacharias’ had been. Yes, she had questions about how this would take place since she wasn’t married, but there was an obvious willingness in her voice when she asked, “How will this happen since I’m not married yet?”
Patiently, Gabriel filled in a few more details for her. “God’s Spirit will come upon you and the Power of the Highest will overshadow you so that, in fact, your son will be the Son of God. And,” he went on, “God said to tell you that your aunt, Elizabeth, down in Judah is six months along in her miracle pregnancy. He wanted you to know that with Him nothing is impossible.”
From her heart, Mary spoke these precious words, “I am the humble servant of the Lord. I am willing for this to happen just as you have said.” Then the angel departed.
Mary took the news about her elderly aunt as a hint from God that she should go to visit her. The moment she arrived, when Elizabeth heard her voice at the door, the baby inside her jumped. God’s Spirit filled Elizabeth’s heart and voice with this amazing tribute:
“What a blessing! You are truly the most blessed woman in history! And bless that little child in your womb! How is it that the mother of my Lord should grace my humble home? The moment I heard your voice, my baby leaped for joy inside! Bless you, child, for believing what the Lord has told you!”
Mary responded with her own words of thanks:
“My inmost soul is overwhelmed by the Lord. My spirit overflows with joy. He has reached out to a simple village girl like me and has given me the greatest place any woman could hope for. He is so mighty, so holy, and so merciful. This shows that He brings down all those who are proud and raises up the humble who fear Him. Those who have nothing, He has filled with good things; those who are focused on their wealth have been sent away empty. He hasn’t forgotten His chosen people but has remembered His promise to Abraham, and He will bring it to pass.”
Mary stayed on with Elizabeth for about three months until it was time for Elizabeth’s child to be born. At his birth the whole community came to celebrate along with her.
Meanwhile, Zacharias remained speechless. It was when the baby was eight days old, the traditional age for the circumcision of male babies, that he was given his official name. Everyone was sure they would name this first-born after his father, Zacharias. But no, Elizabeth was insisting on naming him “John” even though there were no men in their family line with that name. So naturally they turned to Zacharias to settle the issue. He took a writing tablet and spelled out the name, “J-O-H-N.” Everyone was shocked.
But they were even more surprised when Zacharias began speaking out loud for the first time in over nine months. He praised God, and the Holy Spirit filled his heart and lips with these prophetic words:
“Look what God has done! He has visited His people and is raising up Someone to save us from our enemies. For generations prophets have said this day would come, a Day when we could be set free to live for Him every day of our lives!
And you, my own son, will be the forerunner proclaiming a message of sins taken away. This promised Deliverer will give light to all who’ve been sitting in darkness and the shadow of death, and He will guide our feet into the way of peace.”
As you can imagine, the story about these strange events rippled through the hill country for a long time causing everyone to wonder, “What kind of child is this going to be?”
John grew up in the southern desert area of Israel, and the supernatural hand of God in his life was evident as he became strong in spirit.
Mary returned home to Nazareth, and being over three months along, there was no hiding that she was pregnant. Joseph, a God-fearing man, realized that it would be wrong for him to marry someone who was immoral. Because he was gracious and wanted to spare Mary public humiliation, he began looking for a way to deal with her sin privately.
Wrestling with this late into the night, he fell asleep and had a dream. An angel was there calling his name. “Joseph, heir of David’s line, do not hesitate to take Mary as your own wife. The child in her was not conceived in sin but by the infusion of God’s Spirit. It’s a boy and you’ll name Him ‘Jesus.’ (In their mother-tongue, this name is ‘Yeshua,’ which means ‘the Lord saves.’) He will, in fact, save His people from their sins.”
Isaiah had prophesied this seven hundred years earlier when he wrote, “A virgin will conceive, give birth to a son, and call His name, ‘Immanuel.’” (Immanuel means “God with us.”)
Once Joseph was fully awake, he made arrangements to immediately take her as his wife. However, respecting her unique condition, they did not consummate their relationship until after Jesus was born.