Gabriel’s Prophetic Announcement
As Mary went about her daily chores, her thoughts wandered to Joseph. He was a good man, a humble carpenter with kind eyes, and she was pledged to marry him. Suddenly, in an ordinary moment that would forever alter the course of history, “…God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’…
‘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 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.’… ‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her,” (Luke 1:26-38).
The news was overwhelming. Could this be happening to her, Mary, a young woman from a modest Nazareth family? Her mind raced with questions. Was this a dream? But the angel’s presence was too vivid, too real. As days passed and the first signs of her pregnancy appeared, the situation slowly sank in, affirming the angel’s words. This was no dream; it was a God’s truth unfolding within her.
Mary’s Contemplation and Decision
She needed to think and find someone to share this bewildering news with. While a bit older, Elizabeth, her cousin, was always a good listener and had wisdom beyond her years. Recently, Mary had heard something extraordinary about Elizabeth, too. Her family had recently received news that Elizabeth was also experiencing a miraculous pregnancy. Resolved, Mary planned her visit, seeking both support and counsel. Elizabeth’s joyous affirmation was what Mary needed for her uncertain heart and renewed her courage as she faced the daunting task ahead.
Nonetheless, the thought of explaining everything to Joseph loomed large. How would he react? Would he believe her extraordinary story? Mary cherished her time with Elizabeth, feeling at ease with her cousin. But she knew it was time to go back home. With a heavy and hopeful heart, she prepared to face Joseph and tell him all that had happened. Elizabeth encouraged her to trust God and trust Joseph. ‘Joseph is a man of faith,’ Elizabeth reminded her, ‘God will guide him as He has guided you.’
Joseph’s Inner Conflict
Receiving the news from Mary was like a blow to Joseph’s heart. He stood there, numb and disoriented, as her words echoed in his mind. Joseph’s world stopped for a moment as he processed her words. His heart raced as a torrent of thoughts and fears rushed through him.
He knew something was amiss, but he never expected this. Why would she not tell him whose child this was? The idea that this was God’s child, did she really expect him to believe that? Joseph’s mind raced with skepticism and bewilderment. But Mary was not prone to lying. The thought of her deceit was jarring, contradicting everything he knew about her and this was so out of character. Yet, the claim was staggering. Still, the Lord’s child?
The possibility of a Roman soldier raping her and being the father seemed more plausible and more understandable. If it was a Roman soldier, he would understand and might even be willing to accept the shame. But the thought twisted in his gut. But if he stayed with her, people would talk and assume it was his child. The scandal, the whispers behind their backs – these thoughts swirled in his head like a relentless storm.
The idea of Mary being unfaithful was unbearable, yet the alternative – believing in a miracle – was equally challenging. His mind wrestled with doubt and faith in equal measure. Her story was unfathomable. Joseph was facing his own turmoil. The woman he loved was pregnant, and he knew he wasn’t the father. Every option seemed to lead to heartache – should he quietly step away to save her the public disgrace? Yes. Therefore, “Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:18).
Guidance in Joseph’s Dream
That night, as Joseph wrestled with his thoughts and emotions, seeking guidance in prayer, exhaustion overtook him and “…an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’… When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife,” (Matthew 1:19-25).
A Savior Has Been Born
Months later, the entire Roman Empire received the news. “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world… So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” (Luke 2:1-7).
Outside the crowded town, under the vast, star-filled sky, shepherds lived a life far removed from the hustle of Bethlehem. In their simple existence, these shepherds, unremarkable in the eyes of many, found joy and peace in the quiet of the fields under God’s celestial beauty unfurled above them.
Watch and Listen to the Nativity Story from Luke 2
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.'” (Luke 2:8-14).
“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” (Luke 2:15-20).
As the shepherds returned to their flocks, their hearts and minds were alight with wonder and awe. No longer were they mere observers of the night sky or mere shepherds in the field keeping watch over their flocks; they were witnesses to the birth of a king and not just any king, the Lord’s Messiah who was promised so long ago. These humble men that society had forgotten were invited to be part of the dawn of salvation, heralded by a baby in a manger under the watchful eyes of a starlit sky. In awe, they praised God as they walked back to their flock, pondering all they had witnessed. God was indeed with them.
Include the Nativity Story in your family’s Christmas traditions.