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30 November, 1999

Mary was at home in Nazareth, looking forward to being married to Joseph. She was probably a teenager at the time because in those days it was usual to get married when you were between 13 and 16. She was a good Jewish girl and would no doubt know all the stories about Adam and Eve, Moses and Aaron, David and Solomon.

She would have been told about how the people of Israel were led out of slavery in Egypt into the promised land. She probably also knew that many people now expected a new leader to drive the Romans out of their land. They called this leader would be called the Messiah, which is a Hebrew word meaning the anointed one. The Greek for Messiah is ‘Christ’.

Mary had a visitor, a messenger from God, called Gabriel. He told her that she had found favour with God and that she was to have a baby. She asked how this was going to happen as she hadn’t yet got married or started to live with Joseph. Gabriel said that the baby would be a special one fathered by the Spirit of God. Mary must have thought this was strange, but she said that she was a servant of God and whatever God wanted she would do. This took place nine months before Jesus was born.

The story of the angel Gabriel announcing Jesus to Mary is only found in one of the four gospels, the Gospel of Luke. It was common in those days when people were convinced that a person, like Jesus, was very special, they would say there was something very special about him from even before he was born. Certainly it is a most unusual thing for a child to be born without a human father.

Gabriel also mentioned that Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, who had been trying to have a baby for years with her husband Zachariah, and had given up because she thought she was too old, had become pregnant. She too was to have a child. This also was going to be a special child – John the Baptist.

Working it Out
1. Imagine you were sat in front of the television checking the lotto numbers for the family while your mother was out shopping. All your numbers came up and you won. When the family get back you would be the messenger of very good news. Gabriel brought good news to Mary, news that two babies were going to be born. Two very special babies. How do you imagine Mary felt about having this baby? How do you imagine Elizabeth felt? See Luke 1:24-38

2. What can you find out about John the Baptist? Where did he live, what was he famous for? How did he die?
See Luke 1:57-66 & Luke 1:80 Luke 3:1-20, Mark 6:17-29

3. Do you know about what age a girl must be before she can have a baby? What age must Elizabeth have been if she thought she was too old to have a baby? You could ask your mother how old she was when she had you? (Be careful though, women are funny about being asked their age!)

4. Another two important people in other religions are Mohammed the prophet founder of Islam and the Buddha, is there anything special about the way they were born? Are there any similarities with the birth of Jesus?