Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth. —Luke 1:26

In Luke 1:26, Gabriel the angel came to a teenage girl. “Now in the sixth month [of Elizabeth’s pregnancy] the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth.”

If you were going to announce the birth of the Son of God in the first-century world, maybe you would go to Rome, the center of the world’s power. Or maybe you would go to Jerusalem, the center of the Jewish religion. But the angel Gabriel went to a town called Nazareth. Nazareth was an outpost for Roman troops, despised for its corruption. When Roman soldiers changed assignments, they would often spend a night or two in Nazareth. And these soldiers would sleep with prostitutes and indulge in revelry when they had a night or two off duty. Jesus’s birth announcement was made in a corrupt, immoral town because that is the kind of people Jesus came to save–not the righteous but the unrighteous.

Luke explains that Gabriel came “to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary” (v. 27). Now in our Christmas pageants, we usually cast Mary as a young adult, maybe in her 20s or early 30s. But according to Jewish culture at the time, Mary was probably only 12 or 13 years of age. Joseph would have been probably 17 or 18.

Luke says Mary was “engaged” (v. 27). The King James Version says she was “betrothed.” There were three steps in the Jewish marriage process. First, there was the selection. In those days, the parents picked out the spouse for their child. When both sets of parents agreed, the arrangement was made. And when the children came of age, they began their betrothal period. Betrothal was much more serious than an engagement. Today people break engagements all the time. And it is okay to break an engagement. But in the Jewish betrothal process, vows were exchanged. A betrothal was as binding as a marriage. The final stage, after about a year, was the marriage ceremony.

Mary and Joseph were in the betrothal period when Gabriel made this remarkable announcement. Gabriel said to Mary, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you” (v. 28). How did Mary respond? Verse 29 says she was “very perplexed at this statement.” Angels didn’t usually come to bring good news; they usually came to announce God’s judgment. So Mary was frightened. But notice what the angel told her: “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus” (vv. 30-31). The name “Jesus” means “Jehovah is salvation.”

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Mary, Mary, Quite Extraordinary” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2016.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. Quotation from King James Version is public domain.

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