She departed the encounter with her mind whirling. Mary knew with all her being that what she had seen and heard was as real as the ground upon which she stood. Yet, her mind was rehearsing the event and searching to find any earthly reasoning upon which to take a stand.
He said he was Gabriel, an angel that stood in the presence of the Lord. She did not doubt that. His very person emanated a radiant light that evoked reverence while his whole demeanor communicated an authority that demanded obeisance. He had come from heaven to deliver a message from the Lord.
Gabriel spoke. Mary listened. His words pierced her soul as though a hot branding instrument had been placed against her chest. She was accustomed to receiving the Word of God spoken from the mouth of her Rabbi. She had heard the reading of the Torah, listened to the worship from the Temple, been attentive to the stories of God’s supernatural intervention among her people, Israel. But the words of the angel were unlike the words of men. They penetrated, seared, and burned their way into her soul. How could she but believe that he came as the messenger of the Most High God?
Gabriel announced that she had found favor with God. She was to have a son, and she was to name him Jesus. He would be given the throne of King David and would have a kingdom that would never end. Promises of the coming Messiah, the savior and deliverer of the world, were well-known to Mary. They were some-day pledges, which had been spoken by the prophets so long ago. They were off-in-the-distance assurances, which had passed from generation to generation but never actually came to pass. And yet – the angel declared that the appointed time had come – come to Israel, come to Mary, come to the earth.
She would give birth. She would be a mother. Every daughter dreamed of the day when she would have a family of her own. Once Mary married her fiancé, Joseph, she envisioned those hopes becoming a reality for her. But how could she become pregnant prior to any union with Joseph? She hesitated to inquire as to how she could conceive from a being so majestic and powerful as this angel.
Mary spoke. Gabriel listened. Again, his response pierced her soul like a blazing torch. The power of the Highest would cover over her; and the child she would conceive would be the son of God, not the son of man. Immediately she recalled the words of the prophet, Isaiah, who declared that a virgin would conceive and bear a son who should be called Immanuel – God with us. Mary knew. She knew she was that virgin and this was Isaiah’s promise. Her heart resonated, “Be it unto me according to thy word.” Her voice resounded, “Be it unto me according to thy word.” And with that proclamation, Gabriel departed.
She was alone. The encounter had ended. The silence loudly declared that life – her life – would forever be changed. Life – all men’s lives – would forever be altered. Mary knew that her family, her friends, and Joseph would be required to decide who got the last word. Would their fears or their preconceptions cause them to believe their ideas over God’s Word? And what about the people to whom Immanuel was sent? Whose word would take preeminence?
For surely, she thought, there is a promise that can light a fire in the soul of every man. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
Be it unto us according to Thy Word.