In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. (Luke 1:26-27, NIV)
Thus begins the story of the Annunciation. This follows on the story of the angel Gabriel’s visit to Zechariah to announce that his wife, Elizabeth, would give birth to John–the forerunner of the Messiah. But what a powerful contrast is formed between that scene and the one that follows.
The wonderful work of God is unexpected.
Gabriel announced the birth of the forerunner to Zechariah, a priest of good standing, in the temple of God, in Jerusalem the political and religious center of Israel. But Gabriel was sent to announce the birth of the Messiah Himself to an ordinary peasant girl in a backwater village.
Thus God shows that His purposes do not unfold in the ways of the world.
Galilee is far from Jerusalem, and a region of some suspicion to other Israelites; Nazareth is a town of some suspicion to other Galileans (see Jn. 1:46)! But here in an insignificant and inauspicious setting, God chooses the mother who will bear the Savior.
What do we know of Mary? Very little. She is twice described as a virgin, and in the context of her engagement we may infer that she was in her young teens–the normal age for marriage in that place and time. As the narrative unfolds, we see her courage, character, and faithful submission to God. But she is no one the world would regard as powerful or important.
Joseph, though a descendant of David, is nowhere close to the throne. He is, we may say, a good blue-collar Jewish man.
Through such ordinary faithful people, God sent His Son into the world. The very setting of the Annunciation prompts us to reflect on the wonderful grace of God, who reaches down to us in our sin and darkness.
Light has come into our darkened world; and it has come through and come to ordinary men and women who follow God in faith.