A few weeks later, I was in my usual place of prayer. It was an open space with a large tree whose branches stretched out offering shade. I loved that tree because it was a reminder that even in that dry place, God provided life. When I was there I always felt God's presence. But on this particular morning, He seemed even closer. As I rounded the tree to sit in my usual place I was surprised to see a man sitting there. He rose quickly and his words startled me, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."
I'd never heard such a greeting and I'll admit it upset me. I wanted to run from this strange man. I was all alone and I feared what he might do to me. As if reading my thoughts he spoke again.
"Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God." He knew my name. I was so confused, yet, held there by curiosity as he continued, "You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."
For the first time I spoke, my voice clammy and unsure," How will this be since I am a virgin?"
The words had barely left my tongue when he gave answer. It was as if he knew my question before I asked. "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God."
Finally it occurred to me: this was no man! It was an angel of the Lord most high! The Lord had been silent for over 400 years and now He chose to speak to a lowly girl like me? I was in complete awe and said the only thing I could, "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said."
And he was gone.
I fell to my knees and cried out to God.
Oh God, I don't understand! I feel as though I've just received the biggest blessing, yet the biggest curse known to mankind. You gave me my desire of a husband, but then you turn around and supernaturally make me pregnant. Joseph will never have me now. If I escape stoning, I will face a lifetime of shame. Will I be forced to raise this child, your very son, on my own? Will I never experience the tender caress of a loving husband? But... Lord, how can I forget? You provided a husband for Rahab who was the harlot people will suppose me to be. And what did you require of her? Only that she trust you. My God, I will trust you with my life. What may come but that you allow it? My only request: make me trust you more each day!
I lingered there for some time in quiet peace. Then slowly stood to make my way home, stopping at the town well to dray up a drink. As I pulled the bucket up I was interrupted by a hand on my shoulder. I jumped and let go of the rope, hearing the bucket splash a moment later.
"Mary!" It was Asher. "I have a letter here from your cousin Elizabeth."
I was overjoyed! Nodding my thanks I wished him a good day and raced home to read it.
I greatly understand your dilemma. I remember well being your age with all the joy of growing up and discovering love. I would very much like to tell you the story of Zechariah and I, but, I want to do it in person. I would like you to come visit me. There is something wonderful I want you to witness.
The Lord is the giver of many blessings, Mary. Even in my old age he smiled kindly upon me and has opened my womb. I am even now in my sixth month. I want you to come and be here for the birth of my son, John. I have set the arrangements. You need only ask your parents. Then while you are hear we can sit down and discuss everything.
Enclosed are the travel arrangements if you chose to come.
With much love,
The angel was right. She was pregnant. But, of course he was right. He came from God did he not?
At dinner that night my parents read the letter and said they would talk it over. It was another long night. I was anxious to go. I wanted to spend time with Elizabeth, rejoice with her in her new circumstances, but also get away from all these people that I knew so well. They would notice a change in me even before the child began to show. And I knew Elizabeth, who had also experienced something miraculous would possibly believe my story.
In the morning, my parents gave their answer and I began packing immediately. Within a few days, merchants came through town. They were who I was to travel with. The trip was long, but throughout it all, I remembered that God was with me. I was at peace in His arms.