The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.” … Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her. [Luke 1:35,38 (NLT)]
When I was young, back in the 1950s, sex education pretty much consisted of some talk about bees pollinating flowers. Married couples on television didn’t sleep in the same bed and husbands always seemed completely surprised when wives announced a baby was arriving. As a little girl, I naively thought marriage (not intercourse) was what produced babies and that God put babies in a woman’s tummy once she was married.
Having been told that “virgin” simply meant unmarried, I understood that God deliberately gave Jesus to Mary before she was married. Unfortunately, I’d also heard whispers of other unwed mothers—girls who got in the “family way” without benefit of a husband. I knew by the whispers that, except for Mary, being an unwed mother was a bad thing. Although God meant to give Jesus to Mary, I naively thought God occasionally made mistakes when He gave babies to other unmarried girls. As a result of my muddled childlike thinking, I would pray and remind God that I wasn’t married so He shouldn’t give me a baby. Fortunately, by the time I was an adolescent, my understanding both of reproduction and theology had vastly improved.
What brought this to mind was a recent rereading of Luke 1. What I didn’t understand as a child (but do now) is that Mary had a choice in the matter. Granted, she was miraculously impregnated by the Holy Spirit but she could have refused her holy assignment. Instead, she obediently accepted it. She may have been young but not so young that she didn’t know life was going to be much harder by her choice. How would she explain such a miraculous happening to her family and Joseph? Who would believe such a fantastic story? She could end up disgraced and rejected by both fiancé and family. Yet, this young humble girl, who really had no idea of the magnitude of what was happening, willingly obeyed the Lord.
If an angel appeared at my doorstep and offered me an assignment, I wonder how willing I would be to accept his task without knowing the who, how, what, why and where of the plan. Mary believed and obeyed; would I do the same? Would you?