The beginning of the Christmas story, in my thinking, anyway, has always been the Annunciation. An angel named Gabriel appeared to young Mary, telling her, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you! Blessed are you among women!’
The Bible doesn’t use exclamation points in this conversation, but I hear it with exclamation points. Maybe Mary did, too. The Biblical account tells us she was troubled by what he said, so he answers her fear, with a gentler tone, perhaps, “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” and says again, “for you have found favour with God.”
And THEN he tells her she is going to give birth to the Son of the Highest!! Given the throne of David, reigning forever!
And I am hearing more exclamation points!!!
“But, how?!!” Just a question, not a denial.
“Well, the Holy Spirit…power of the Highest…overshadowing.”
And then, at the very end of Gabriel’s message comes something that helps me identify with Young Favoured One. That identification with her encourages me because (as Gabriel must have known about Mary) I often need to hear just what she apparently needed to hear.
A story about another of God’s impossible promises fulfilled.
“Let me tell you what’s happening to your cousin Elizabeth…for with God, nothing shall be impossible.”
Haven’t we seen it throughout scripture? God uses stories—testimonies–to encourage and give hope. He still uses them today, both the ancient and contemporary.
So maybe Elizabeth’s story is the real beginning of the Christmas event. Elizabeth was already well into her sixth month of pregnancy by the time Gabriel appeared to Mary. Her miracle child, John the Baptist, didn’t need to be older than Jesus to fill the role that he eventually played, but maybe—just maybe—Mary needed to hear a testimony, an impossible made possible by God’s own hand. So God provided it.
Just in time, a testimony.
So when He sends one to us to encourage us and give us hope…and he often does…let’s be like Mary, and believe.