“…God sent the angel Gabriel … to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 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.’” Luke 1:26-33
An angel appeared to Mary. We are very familiar with this picture from the story of Jesus’ birth. Many of our Christmas carols mention it, and pictures of angels abound on Christmas cards and gift-wrap. These images are of beautiful feminine figures with feathery wings wearing dresses of gauze adorned with ribbons and glitter.
But the angels of the bible are members of the heavenly host that defeated the legions of hell. They are warriors and messengers of God. Gabriel’s appearance is not described here but when God sent him to explain some things to Daniel, Daniel was so frightened he fell on his face (Daniel 8:15-17). So we can understand Mary being greatly troubled at Gabriel’s appearing and talking to her- the fact that God’s messenger was praising her, a poor teenager from Nazareth. Perhaps he has the wrong Mary, the wrong address?
Do not be afraid. This is the preface to Gabriel telling Mary, an unmarried teenager, that she is going to have a child. Mary’s engagement to Joseph could be terminated if she was with child and he didn’t agree to marry her. If her own family then rejected her, she would be an outcast and have to live by begging or prostitution.
Do not be afraid. The child will be great; will be seated on a throne and rule over a never-ending kingdom. Mary’s country was under occupation by the Romans who didn’t take kindly to insurrection or rebellion. How could her son come to rule a kingdom without fighting the Romans, without going to war?
Do not be afraid. Gabriel is not asking Mary to do her best not to be fearful, or to try her hardest – he is commanding her. He explains to her twice that she has God’s favor, he tells her that God is with her, and expects her to put her fears aside.
Do not be afraid. Today, we also have God’s favor – if we accept Jesus as our Lord we are his children, his chosen ones. He promises to be with us always (Matt 28: 20). Nothing can separate us from his love (Romans 8: 38,39). Fear not!