A Teenage Girl Says Yes to God
Pretend for a moment that you are the main character in this unimaginable situation. You are a 13-year old girl, engaged to be married. A huge angel shows up to announce that you’re going to get pregnant by the Holy Spirit. This gigantic shining angelic being is staring you in the face and you feel overwhelmed.
Yes, you know the story. Put yourself in Mary’s shoes for a moment. “The angel greeted Mary and said, “You are truly blessed! The Lord is with you.”[i] This is the angel Gabriel we’re talking about. When Gabriel appeared to Daniel around 600 years before Christ, Daniel was so terrified, he fell facedown on the ground. He was sick for days after his experience with the angel.[ii] Aside from being very afraid, what were Mary’s thoughts? “OK, what do you want from me? I’ve never seen an angel before and I’m scared.”
The frightening angel continues, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus. He will be great, be called ‘Son of the Highest.’[iii] God “has a surprise” for Mary—that was the understatement of the century.
There are different kinds of surprises in life. Like, “your house just burned down!” or your boss says, “I’m sorry but this is your last day.” I wonder if in the first few moments of this encounter, Mary saw Gabriel’s visit as a bad surprise. We don’t know what she thought.
Perhaps Mary was thinking, “What this angel just told me has nothing to do with what my mother taught me about pregnancy!” No woman in history had ever become “pregnant by the Holy Spirit.” Did Mary say to herself, “Do I really have a choice in the matter?” There’s no way we can know exactly what she though or felt. But you have to wonder…
Mary was a regular teenage girl
When we hear this story at Christmas time, we frame it kind of like a fairy tale. Because we know the end of the story, we think, “of course, Mary did the right thing.”
We say, “O yeah, the virgin birth, how amazing!” But this miracle was completely unprecedented. Maybe Mary wondered, “are you a good angel or…?” We can’t possibly understand or experience the shock and angst this teenager felt.
Mary said to the angel, “How could I get pregnant if I’ve never slept with a man?”[iv] When the angel explained she would conceive a child by the Holy Spirit, I wonder if it made her feel any better. Mary was a typical young teenager in ancient Israel. She probably spent very little time outside of her own home and neighborhood. It was customary that women weren’t allowed to talk to men unless their father was present.
In first century Palestine, women were seen as second class citizens. (Jesus would soon be turning that tradition upside down.) In Mary’s time, women simply did what men in authority told them to do. “Well behaved” women really didn’t have a choice—do what the man tells you to do, or in this case, do what the giant man-angel tells you.
Whatever her first reactions were, by the end of the conversation with this male angel, she said, “OK, let God’s will be done with me.” She was convinced that this messenger was truly from God. She must have been thinking, “I don’t know exactly what I’m getting myself into, but here I go. My gut tells me this is right.”
Isn’t that what hearing from God is like? This is how Peter and John just knew it was right when Jesus said to them, “come, follow me.” There’s no other explanation for why they immediately left their jobs to follow Jesus, the preacher-healer. It’s the same reason that Matthew left his job immediately when Jesus invited him to “come, follow me.”
[i] Luke 1:28, Common English Version
[ii] Daniel 8:27
[iii] Luke 1:32
[iv] Luke 1:34, The Message