"Don't be afraid, Mary," the angel told her, "for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. Luke 1:30-31
Luke 1 involves two shocking and miraculous pregnancy announcements: one to a priest named Zechariah and another to a young teenage girl named Mary. If you're up for a challenge today, go ahead and read the verses from the Going Deeper section of this devotion and answer these questions:
Why are both of these announcements shocking and miraculous?
What is similar about Zechariah's and Mary's responses to the angel Gabriel's announcement?
What is different about Zechariah's response and Mary's response to Gabriel's announcement?
Now, let's talk about our answers. The first announcement is shocking and miraculous because Zechariah and his wife are beyond childbearing years. The second announcement is shocking and miraculous because Mary, who is just a young teenage girl, is a virgin. The similarity between their responses is that Zechariah and Mary are both fearful when they first see Gabriel. The difference between their responses rests in Zechariah's unbelief. You see, after Gabriel made his announcement to Zechariah that his wife was going to become pregnant, Zechariah asked him, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years" (Luke 1: 18). Asking for a sign, Zechariah did not believe the angel's message. Mary asked the angel "how will this be… since I am a virgin?" Rather than asking for a sign and demonstrating unbelief, Mary asked: "how." How would she become pregnant since she was a virgin? When Gabriel answered her question, Mary said, "May your word to me be fulfilled" (Luke 1: 38). She believed Gabriel's announcement. She trusted in God's promise to her.
Imagine, after approximately 400 years between the Old Testament and the New Testament, finally, God announces the coming of the long-awaited Messiah to a young teenage girl through His angel Gabriel. With this announcement, the long period of waiting for the Messiah is coming to an end. Jesus is coming. He always fulfills His promises. Will you choose to believe them?
God always keeps His promises. Throughout Scripture, there are many, many promises from God. This week, we are focusing on the promise that God is always with us, which is revealed to us through one of Jesus' names: Immanuel, God with us. On an index card, write these words of Jesus found in Matthew 28:20, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Put that index card in a place where you will see it often as a reminder of the promise from God that is revealed in one of His very names: He is with you always, even today.
When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.
One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying.
While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”
Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.”
Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”
Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah to come out of the sanctuary, wondering why he was taking so long. When he finally did come out, he couldn’t speak to them. Then they realized from his gestures and his silence that he must have seen a vision in the sanctuary.
When Zechariah’s week of service in the Temple was over, he returned home. Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months. “How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.”
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
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. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. For the word of God will never fail.”
Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.