Mary, a small town teenager, maybe 13 years old, in an arranged marriage that her family had gotten for her...all of her life ahead of her, promised to an older man named Joseph. He will take care of her, feed her, clothe her, protect her, so that her father does not have to do those things anymore. All of life seems to be going according to the plan that her parents had worked out for her.
Then, a surprise entered her life. An angel, Gabriel, paid her a visit. Mary was totally shocked, stunned, nonplussed. Who had ever encountered a heavenly being and lived to tell the story? The messenger assured her that everything was okay---"Be not afraid" he said with authority. Then he began to lay out a new plan for Mary's life, one that she had not even contemplated. Gabriel assured her that she was favored by Yahweh and that she was chosen for a special task that only she could accomplish. The news was totally unexpected and, well, not entirely welcomed. After all, her life was just beginning to fall into place and she did not need a major interference as Gabriel described.
"You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."
A baby....no, that was not part of the plan at all. First comes love, well maybe first comes an arranged marriage that may turn into love somewhere along the way, and then comes a baby. It had to work in that order. Society would not allow Mary to be an unwed mother. That was punishable by death according to the laws of her people.
"How can this be, since I am a virgin?" Mary asked Gabriel. Even Mary knew that a man was necessary to cause a baby to be born. Without Joseph, she thought, nothing would happen to bring about a new life.
Gabriel had an answer for everything, she must have thought..."The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God...For nothing will be impossible with God."
Mary considered what Gabriel had told her. She must have thought about it for what seemed the longest even though it may have been only a minute or two. "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then---poof--the angel was gone.
Mary, all alone again, sitting in her room, wondering what the future would bring now that God had changed her life plan. Would Joseph be understanding when it began to be evident that she was expecting the birth of a baby? Would Joseph still marry her or would her family send her away to stay with relatives until the baby was born? Would anyone ever believe her when she told her story of the angelic visit? She had to tell someone so she began the journey to see her relative Elizabeth, much older than she but also expecting a baby that would be born even before her promised child came into the world. Mary had to tell what she was feeling to someone who would understand, and Elizabeth would surely understand since she was expecting a miracle baby too.