Far from the beatific view that people often have of Mary, the mother of Jesus, she was, in reality, a normal young lady in a very rough set of circumstances. To begin with, in her own words found in Luke 1:47, she needed a Savior just like everyone else. And then, to make matters even harder for her, she lived in positively the worst town in the entire country.
In the words of Nathanael, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Nathanael was shocked to consider the possibility that literally any good thing at all, great or small, could ever come out of Nazareth. Nazareth was not a planned village; it just sort of sprung up along a trade route. Every race, tribe, group, belief and behavior could be found in Nazareth. It was a violent, crime-infested, sin city of the land.
And this is where Mary lived.
The bright spot for her, though, was that she had met and fallen in love with a fine gentleman named Joseph. He was a tradesman, a carpenter, a man who worked at a very hard job. He was kind, considerate, selfless, loyal, the kind of man any woman would be lucky to have. Mary likely knew that she was never going to be rich, but she certainly was well on her way to having a wonderful life. She would marry her sweetheart, have a home, have babies, watch them grow into adulthood and bear grandbabies for her to love and spoil.
But then she was presented with an opportunity that, if she accepted it, would almost certainly dash all of those dreams to bits.
Luke 1:30-35 says, "And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."
The words were plain enough that Mary well understood what was at stake. This was the coming of the Messiah first prophesied some 4,000 years earlier in the Garden of Eden when God spoke of the seed of the woman bruising the head of the serpent and redeeming fallen man. That promise continued to be reiterated and brought more clearly into focus through the years. The seed of Abraham would be the line of that coming Messiah, through his son Isaac, his grandson Jacob, his great-grandson Judah, through the line of David. Generation after generation of Jewish women thought on that promise and longed to bear a son that would be the fulfillment of that promise.
But darkness fell across that promise through the years, as the ages wore on without end, and evil king Jehoiachin seemed to end the hope of it altogether when God cursed his line from being allowed to reign. And yet ...
Isaiah 7:14 says, "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." The virgin birth was God's greatest masterpiece, a work of art that would allow his Son to be born in flesh, yet without being from fallen Adam or cursed Jehoiachin. He would be born of the line of David from his mother, Mary, and he would also possess the right to the throne through the adoption of Joseph, who was also descended from a different son of David.
But Mary was likely not thinking things through that in depth at the moment. You see, she was about to have to look Joseph in the eyes and say, "I know you are going to find this hard to believe, but I have not cheated on you even though I am pregnant. In fact, I am actually still a virgin. And I am carrying the Son of God in my womb."
Joseph was as likely to believe that then as any of us would be if someone claimed it today. In other words, this angel was asking Mary to willingly run the risk of losing everything. Husband, home, babies, grandbabies, future all of it. So how would she respond?
Luke 1:38: And Mary said, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word."
In other words, "whatever, wherever, whenever." Mary had a very real choice to make in this. This was not forced upon her. Jesus was the only option, but Mary was not. God could easily have picked another sweet-spirited virgin young lady; we could today be singing "Sarah, Did You Know?" instead of "Mary, Did You Know?" But Mary did not let the opportunity pass her by. When confronted with an opportunity, a responsibility, really, that could legitimately have cost her everything, her choice was, "whatever, wherever, whenever."
Because of that one simple choice, we are still talking about her today. And we know how things turned out for her; she got her husband, she got to be the mother of Jesus, and Matthew 13:55-56 tells us that she and Joseph went on to have at least six more children. So, for Mary, all's well that ends well, yes.
But the gravity of her choice ought to still resonate with us. We should all be willing to bow before God and say, "Lord, whatever plans you have for my life, whatever it may cost, how ever it may hurt, my answer is 'whatever, wherever, whenever.'"
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at wordofhismouth.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.