Something tremendous was happening. Something so big, so important, that angels by the thousands gathered to announce it. They alerted shepherds on a Judean hillside. “A Baby has been born in Bethlehem!” they sang joyfully. “Go see him!”
All the angels in heaven had awaited this hour. The Second Person in the God Family had come to earth to be born as a human.
Many people know about the shepherds who found the baby Jesus lying in a manger, and the wise men of the East who came bearing gifts. But let us go back and see some of the preparation and planning that went into this marvelous event.
The archangel Gabriel appeared to the Jewish girl in Nazareth as she sorted parched grain in the courtyard of her family dwelling.
“Hello, Mary,” greeted the archangel.
“Oh!” She was startled to see someone appear so suddenly beside the bench upon which she sat.
“Don’t be afraid,” Gabriel continued, “God is very pleased with you. He is going to use you to be the mother of a very special Child. You’ll give birth to a Son who’ll be given the throne of his father David. He’ll reign over the house of Israel forever.”
Mary responded submissively. “Yes, sir. It shall be as you say.” But there were questions in her mind about this angelic individual who had come to talk to her. And her thoughts turned to the man she had promised to marry. How would Joseph receive the news that he would not be the father of her first child (Luke 1:28-38)?
Mary decided to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, in Judea. When she arrived at the home of Zacharias and Elizabeth, she was surprised to find that Elizabeth was six months pregnant. A much older woman than Mary, Elizabeth was beyond normal childbearing years.
When Zacharias came into the house later, Mary greeted him with congratulations. He smiled and nodded, but made no reply.
Elizabeth explained to Mary that her husband had been stricken dumb while he was carrying out his priestly duties in the Temple at Jerusalem (Luke 1:9-17). More than six months ago Gabriel had made himself visible to Zacharias and told him that he would have a son who would have God’s Holy Spirit with him from birth. This son’s task would be that of preparing the way for the coming of the Messiah.
Because Zacharias would not believe the archangel’s words, he was stricken dumb until after the birth of his son.
Mary began to realize that she had come to the right home for encouragement and counsel. She described to them how Gabriel had appeared to her and had made the announcement that she would become the mother of a Child who would reign over Israel. As they listened with wonder, Zacharias and Elizabeth began to put together the two incidents.
The cousins talked for long hours, trying to perceive what the future held for them, realizing that they would have an important part to play in the developments. For three months Mary stayed in Judea and poured out her heart’s deepest feelings to her cousin. When she returned to Galilee, she was ready to fulfill the role laid out for her by the Eternal.
Returning to Nazareth, Mary told Joseph about Gabriel’s appearance. She repeated the conversation they had had, adding that already she was bearing this Child of God.
Alarmed and bewildered, Joseph went to his carpentry work with a heavy heart. He wrestled with the new problem hour after hour. Then he reached a decision. He would not wed Mary.
But again there was angelic intervention. One night as Joseph slept, he dreamed that an angel spoke to him. “Don’t be afraid to have Mary be your wife,” the angel said. “She’ll give birth to God’s Son. You must name Him Jesus, He will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:19-21).
The dream so relieved Joseph’s mind that in the morning he arose, dressed and went at once to arrange for his marriage to Mary.
This is the beginning of a sixteen part series designed for children. It makes understanding the New Testament much easier. Adults will like it too.