The Story of Mary, Mother of Jesus

There’s a special fondness in my heart for the story of Mary, mother of Jesus.  Long ago, I was chosen to be Mary in our elementary school Christmas play.  I have no memories of the play itself, but I remember running with excitement into our house after school to announce the news to my Mom. It didn’t matter that I had no lines.  Mary seemed like a plumb part to me!  A dress emerged from a blue sheet and we repurposed a veil for my head. 😊 It’s a special memory for me.

The Story of Mary- angel Gabriel visits Mary (painting)

Adulthood hasn’t dimmed my appreciation for the story of Mary and the miraculous birth of Jesus.  Let’s take a look at her unique life and celebrate the life lessons she teaches us.

Mary of Nazareth

We first meet Mary in her hometown of Nazareth.  Mary was an obscure, ordinary Jewish teen. 

Based on the time in which Mary lived, we can guess hard work was the norm. She lived under Roman rule, which brought the additional hardships of poverty and the oppressive rule of Caesar.

Her Jewish faith involved learning the Hebrew Scriptures through the oral tradition of prayer, the telling of stories and poems, singing songs, and listening to the readings of the Torah.

We won’t find Mary’s name in the Old Testament, but Isaiah mentions her in this prophecy and beautiful Christmas verse:

Isaiah 7:14

“Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign:  The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel.” (NIV)

Immanuel- the Hebrew name that means “God with us” is the prophecy fulfilled through Mary.

Jesus’ Genealogy

There are only a handful of women mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy, and Mary is one of them.

Matthew opens his Gospel with a genealogy of Jesus to prove He is a descendant of King David and Abraham. As was the custom (1st-century Jewish custom excluded women) he notes paternal heritage until verse 16…

and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”

Because Mary was a virgin when she became pregnant, notice that they do not name Joseph as the father of Jesus.

Mary and Joseph

One can imagine the excitement Mary and Joseph had for their future. Mary was a devout Jewish girl and had recently become engaged to Joseph, a carpenter. 

They were expecting a normal period of betrothal and anticipating their happy married life.In Jewish culture, there were three steps to marriage. 

First, the families of the couple must agree to the marriage.  They made a public announcement of the agreement, and the next phase began- the couple was “pledged/betrothed” in marriage. 

This phase usually lasted a year and is like an engagement today.  The exception in Jewish culture was even though the couple did not live together, the betrothal/pledged union was binding and broken only through death or divorce.

Angel Gabriel and Mary

Here is where Mary’s story gets really interesting:

“Now in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, ‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!’”  Luke 1:26-28 KJV.

Can you imagine this scenario? One minute you are going about your daily work and the next minute an angel appears in your house with a message from God. 

The angel sounds thrilled to be there, but Mary, however, was “greatly troubled at his words.” (v29)

Can you imagine thinking you were just an ordinary young girl living life in a small town and having an angel pop into your life calling you blessed and highly favored by God??  It must have been shocking to her.

Immaculate Conception

When Mary heard God was blessing her with the honor of Mother of the Messiah, she asks an appropriate question: “How will this be… since I am a virgin?” (v34)

She wasn’t doubting the angel’s words, but curious how this could be physically possible.

Gabriel describes for her how the power of God through the Holy Spirit would perform this unique work in her life. He then gives her the news that her relative Elizabeth, infertile and too old to conceive, was now six months pregnant.

And then the words from Gabriel that brought her comfort and peace: “For nothing is impossible with God.” (v37)

Mary Says Yes to God

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered.  “May it be to me as you have said.” And the angel left.” (v38)

No “what if” or “why” escaped her lips.  If she thought of what Joseph or her family was going to say, or how to convince other people she was pregnant through the Holy Spirit, they must have been fleeting thoughts.

Mary said ‘Yes’ to God because she trusted and firmly believed God’s words and plans.

Oh, that my faith could be as strong as Mary’s! She would not debate with God.  Mary didn’t take matters into her own hands.  She trusted God unconditionally and surrendered herself to experience peace in His timing.

the story of mary- statue of Mary against a blue/white flower blurry background

Mary Visits Elizabeth

Mary rushes off to visit Elizabeth; they had much to discuss!  Elizabeth greets her with the words “Blessed are you among women” and “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” (vv42,45)

Song of Mary

In response to Elizabeth’s, Mary gives thanks and praise to God through song.  Time and travel hadn’t changed her mind or lessened her willing and humble spirit.

Praising God was still utmost on her mind. You can read the song in its entirety in Luke 1:46-55.  I want to highlight a few verses:

“My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”( v47)

Gabriel’s first word to Mary was “Rejoice” and she takes his command to heart. ♥ 

“From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me.” (v49)

Mary wasn’t being prideful here, but accepting the incredible gift and position God had put her in.  She didn’t take credit for anything but gave God the glory for His blessing on her life.

The verses that follow (50-55) show us just how well Mary knew the Word of God.  She sings of God’s powerful attributes and character, His promises and protection, and His love and mercy to His people.

No wonder she accepted His plan for her life!  Mary’s trust in God was cemented deep in her heart; it poured out in her beautiful song of praise.

“For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45.

Characteristics of Mary, Mother of Jesus

Mary could respond as she did because of her humble heart and deep devotion to God

She trusted Him completely and would do as He asked.  Her path must have seemed uncertain, but God’s greater purpose reassured her.

Mary had trust in God’s timing.  Becoming pregnant during the betrothal period could have been disastrous for Mary.  We don’t see her going to Joseph, or taking matters into her own hands. 

When she hears the news, she rushes to see Elizabeth, who also was experiencing a miraculous pregnancy.

Mary uses the power of praise amid her unexpected pregnancy news. 

Her circumstances had the potential for disaster. 

Joseph could divorce her. The penalty for adultery was death. If she was feeling afraid, we don’t hear of it. We only see her praising God, trusting in His guidance and direction.

How often do we use praise as the first line of defense against anxiety, problems, or change of plans?? (My answer? – Not enough!)

Lessons from Mary, the Mother of Jesus

Mary teaches us many lessons if we consider her own words.

1)  It’s OK to ask God questions. 

Mary didn’t doubt the Angel Gabriel’s news. When she asked “How will this be?“, she was only requesting additional information.  She knew God doesn’t make mistakes or suffer from poor timing.

2)  Say yes to God, even if what He’s asking seems impossible, uncomfortable, or impractical.

Mary’s love for God and her willingness to obey Him allowed her to say, “May it be to me as you have said.” 

Does our love and trust in God have limits?  How available do we make ourselves for God to use us?  Do we truly believe nothing is too hard for God?

Related Post∼ The God of the Impossible

3)  Mary’s sound knowledge of God’s character, love, and mercy towards her people allowed her to sing her magnificent song of praise and trust His plans.  It gave her the faith, courage, and strength to accept God’s will for her life.

Mary didn’t have the written Word, but she wrote the Word of God on her heart. 

How well do we know His Word? We too can understand God’s plans for our lives and follow Him in faith and trust when we know Him thoroughly through His Word.

Attributes of Mary

The Christmas season would not be the same for me without reading the story of Jesus’ birth through Mary. 

These small glimpses of insight we receive about Mary still amaze me. Her humble beginnings and young age didn’t hinder her absolute faith, trust, and love for God.

Her spirit of obedience and acceptance of God’s will for her life is inspiring.  She had an important role in God’s plan for my salvation (!), and it’s humbling and inspiring to read of her servant’s heart.

May we, like Mary, “treasure up all these things” and ponder them in our own hearts this Christmas season.



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