Christmas is coming. It's actually December! (Where did the year go?) While our thoughts during this season are often weighted down by making travel plans, purchasing all the perfect gifts, trying not to eat too many cookies, or worrying about how we'll get through the month without falling apart, the very first Christmas was, in fact, laden with quite a bit of emotional weight on a young woman named Mary.

In the Biblical account of the birth of Jesus Christ (for whom Christmas is named), a young couple, engaged but not yet married, learns some strange news about their family: They would be parents to an incredibly important man—the future king of their people.

Before Mary became pregnant, she was visited by a heavenly messenger, an angel, who told her what was to come:

From Luke 1:26-33 "...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. 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 conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him 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 Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.'"

Mary and Joseph were not yet married, but she would become pregnant. But the baby would not be Joseph's. Instead, he would be "the Son of the Most High"—placed in her womb by God. (Joseph also got a special angelic message—in a dream—to reassure him that his fiancee's pregnancy was not shameful but had come from God. Read more in Matthew 1:18-25.)

christmas the angel and maryAs part of a Christmas series that I completed years ago and plan to share with you throughout December, I tried to draw this encounter Mary that had with the angel Gabriel. I don't really know what angels look like, though some are described in the Bible, but I know, from those same descriptions, that whenever someone gets a message from an angel, he or she is amazed, even terrified. This young woman, Mary, maybe only 13 or 14 years old, is visited by an angel with an incredible message: She will conceive a child and bear a son who will be…a king. A king? That's what the message seemed to say. She's stunned, perplexed, curious.

I can't imagine that she has the slightest idea of what that truly means, and perhaps even in her lifetime she never fully understood how her son was to reign over her people (Jacob's descendants, the Israelites). What a bizarre moment for her! But as "greatly troubled" as she was, she doesn't argue with the angel over his message. Instead, she answers, "Yes, I am a servant of the Lord; let this happen to me according to your word." As I drew her, I tried to communicate her awe, her innocence, her humility, and her willingness to step into this monumental responsibility, a more daunting life ahead of her than can be imagined.

It's hard to draw something of this nature without feeling like I have soooo much to explain. So, I'll close with these thoughts. As you begin your Christmas season, stop and slow down. What emotional pressures have you placed on yourself? What are you doing with the season? Who are you loving and how? My husband and I, challenged by the new traditions of other families we know, want to make our Christmases more about loving others by our actions rather than filling spaces with material things. For us, Christmas will (hopefully) be about celebrating the birth of Jesus by doing the things He came to do—serving and loving sacrificially and for His Father's glory.

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