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  • Writer's pictureR.C. VanLandingham

The Annunciation--The First Joyful Mystery

Updated: Dec 19, 2021

As we draw nearer to Christmas I like to focus on praying the Five Joyful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary. And I am going to post about each mystery between now and Christmas morning.

For those unaccustomed to the mysteries, the First Joyful Mystery is the Annunciation. This is when the Angel Gabriel came down from Heaven and told Mary that she was going to conceive and bear a son and she was to name Him Jesus.

This is such a beautiful mystery for so many reasons, but the one that leaps out immediately is Mary's answer. The Lord did not force Mary to do this. He let her choose to be the mother of Jesus. And she agreed. But her agreement was a much bigger deal than a simple "yes" to being a mother. Mary put her reputation and even her life in danger.

You see, Mary was married to Joseph. I know, some translations say "betrothed" or "engaged," but those words do not fully or accurately convey the full legal and spiritual meaning of their marriage. Mary and Joseph were already husband and wife at the time of the Annunciation. They were legally married, she just had not moved into his house with him yet. That part of the marriage had not yet occurred, but Joseph could have legally and morally had intercourse with her. But he had not. So, by agreeing to conceive and bear a child, Mary was opening herself up to accusations of adultery, which was punishable by death. But she trusted the Lord completely, and demonstrated perfect faith and obedience by her answer: "I am the handmaid of the Lord, May it be done to me according to your word."

In his response to the news of Mary's pregnancy, Joseph demonstrated the righteousness that likely prompted Christ to choose him to be His earthly father. Joseph could have accused Mary of adultery. After all, he probably assumed that was the case. But he knew the penalty for adultery was death by stoning, or at the very least she would have been shamed and shunned. Thus, Joseph decided to "divorce her quietly." This meant he was not going to accuse her of adultery. Think about that. If Joseph did not accuse Mary of adultery everyone would assume the child was his. That meant that Joseph was willing to bear the shame of being a man who did not support his family in order to save Mary from shame. That is a good man.

Another interesting yet often overlooked passage of the Annunciation was Mary's original reaction to the news that she was going to conceive and bear a son. Mary asked, "How can this be since I have no relations with a man?" What an odd question for a married woman (or an engaged woman), even one who had not yet had relations with her husband. One would assume that she was planning on having relations with Joseph in the future--likely when she moved into his house. But if that were the case her response to hearing that she was going to conceive and bear a son should have been something more like, "Wow, that's wonderful news! I can't wait to tell Joseph that we are going to have a son!" After all, Gabriel never said she was going to conceive that very night. And it is not uncommon for God to announce something (even a birth) and it take a while before it occurs. Just ask Abraham and Sarah. The only way Mary's response makes sense is if she never intended to have relations with Joseph, even after she moved in with him.

In answer to Mary's question, Gabriel assured her that everything is possible with the Lord, even conceiving a child absent relations with a man. As evidence of this, the angel informed Mary that her cousin Elizabeth, who was old and believed to be barren, was with child. Upon hearing that news Mary thought not of herself, but only of the hardship Elizabeth was going through and rushed off to help her. And that is what I will discuss next time in the Second Joyful Mystery: The Visitation.

R.C. VanLandingham lives in Florida with his wife and kids. Get his Christian fantasy book Peter Puckett & The Amulet of Eternity FREE Here!

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