Luke 1:26-28 (NLT)
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!”
The question has never been answered fully. Scholars and theologians throughout the ages have debated without resolution: What was so special about Mary?
As a virgin, we can suspect that she was likely nothing more than a child. In fact, many believe because of customs of the day and the details of the story, Mary may have been as young as 14-years-old. In her short lifetime she had accomplished nothing special, proven herself as nothing great. She was a little girl still living with her family, and most-likely still playing with dolls at the hem of her mother’s skirts.
As a resident of Nazareth, we know that she lived in a true Judean backwater…and not the good kind. Nazareth was a town located on the other side of the tracks, even before tracks were invented. Its reputation is obvious as one of his followers, when first introduced to Jesus 30-years later retorts, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). If it weren’t for this one famous moment, it was a village completely ignored by the historical record.
As a child bride, we know that she was about to face some major life changes. We do not know if she was betrothed by her family or madly in love. We do not know if she chose her husband-to-be or if the families worked together to arrange the marriage. However, we do know that all the responsibilities of a grown woman were soon to be placed on her narrow shoulders: managing a home, satisfying a husband, starting a family, becoming a responsible member of the community.
As the groom, we know that Joseph was an unimportant part of an important family. His lineage placed him among royalty, but of course, as a small-town carpenter (Matthew 13:55) he was probably a million deaths away from ascending to the throne. Covered in sawdust and pulling splinters from his rough hands, he was a common laborer building nothing more than bookshelves and repairing kitchen tables.
As a messenger of God, we know that Gabriel was a busy fellow. He’s just had to deal with Zechariah a few short months ago and now he was here to share more good news. This was a being who stood in the presence of God (Luke 1:20) and yet, had come to spend time with this little girl in a small town in the middle of nowhere.
As we first meet Mary, it is clear she was of no consequence to history. She did not stand out as a world-changer. Her path was like so many others of her time, and like so many before and after, yet God saw her as something more. God knew her well. God selected her for one of the most important tasks in history: She would be the mother of God.
We make this mistake every single day, don’t we? We see someone and determine their purpose, their role and their abilities within the blink of an eye. And we nearly always undervalue them. We limit their potential. We underestimate their contribution. Perhaps it makes us feel superior. Perhaps it gives us power. Seldom are we able to see a person’s true worth because of our critical blindness.
Gabriel addresses Mary as God sees her, not as our eyes view her. She is Favored. God is with her. He speaks words that acknowledge and confirm. Words that affirm and comfort. Mary, for all her unexceptional qualities would soon be one of the most recognized women on the planet. She would change the world and God knew it all along. There really is nothing special about her, except that God knows her and chose her. And that is more than enough.
Dearest Lord Jesus,
You elected a little girl in a little town. You chose a person of non-interest to do the most interesting thing in history. You see more than we ever do. You know more than we ever know. Your ways are mysterious to us.
And we are eternally grateful for that truth.