Joseph sat up in bed, his chest heaving. He searched his room for the source of light, but found only darkness. A dream? No, it was much more than that. He knew with all his heart that he had just experienced something wonderful. He could still feel the presence of holiness, could still hear the angel’s voice:
“…what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
“Mary told the truth!” Joseph was at once giddy with relief and remorseful that he had not believed her.
“…She will give birth to a son.”
She is to have a son? But not just any son … the Son of God. The Messiah! And I am to be this child’s father? I will have the privilege of raising him as my own? I am not worthy of such a responsibility. The thought of it sent his heart racing once again. Mary was the one who this was directly affecting and yet she seemed to be at such peace about it. Of course, she has had at least three months to accept it, he reasoned. He had only just heard yesterday. He groaned as he remembered his outburst. Will she accept my apology now? Will she understand why I was so upset? Will Heli welcome me again at their door after the way I treated them? Joseph jumped up from his cot and threw on a fresh tunic. A sense of urgency propelled him to hurry to the home of Heli. He would go to Mary at once. Before the day ended, he would make sure they were officially man and wife.
The realization that the Holy Spirit was even now speaking through Elisabeth, brought tears of joy to Mary’s eyes. God had confirmed Elisabeth’s pregnancy to her by letting her see Elisabeth with her own eyes. Today He was telling her that she, too, was with child. Mary did not know how or when it had happened. She only knew that she could feel the Holy Spirit working within her as well.
“My soul glorifies the Lord,” Mary said, raising her hands in worship, “and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant.” She closed her eyes and lifted her hands to the heavens. “From now on, all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me. Holy is His name.” She joined hands with Elisabeth and they worshipped together, exalting God and praising Him for His mercy and His love. As the two women embraced again, Elisabeth silently chastised herself for not seeing to the needs of those who had brought Mary to her. She offered them bread and water for the rest of their journey, but they declined. They quickly retrieved Mary’s belongings and, after placing them beside her, assured her they would send a messenger to let her father know she had arrived safely.
Mary’s face grew hot with embarrassment as she watched her traveling companions depart. They had just witnessed her very private greeting with Elisabeth. She could tell by their stunned looks and quick departure that her revelations had made them uncomfortable. What would these friends of her father – her neighbours of Nazareth – report to Joseph? Could they begin to understand that she carried the Promise of Israel? She thanked them for their kindness and noticed as she spoke that those who only moments before had been unafraid to speak with her now would not even look at her. With sudden clarity, Mary knew that the road ahead was going to be very rough indeed.
“Oh, Olive I’m so sorry we did not milk you last night.” She grabbed a stool and a bucket, sat down and began kneading the swollen udders of the disgruntled goat. “Here I was playing with the new baby and you are about ready to burst.” Soon, the steady rhythm of the milk squirting into the bucket soothed both her guilt and the goat’s discomfort. As Mary cooed comforting words, she gradually began to feel that she was not alone. “I’m almost finished Ima, I’ll be right in,” she said, turning her head slightly.
“Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.”
Mary scrambled off her stool and fell hard on her bottom, almost knocking over the bucket of milk. Her mouth hung open in a silent scream as she stared at the man before her. He had an aura about him that was ethereal. She knew at once that this was no ordinary man but a heavenly being.
He extended his hand toward her and pulled her to her feet.
“Who … who are you?”
“I am the angel Gabriel. Do not be afraid, Mary. You have found favour with God.” Gabriel smiled at the young girl before him. He motioned for her to sit on her stool, concern for her evident on his face. Grateful to be off her feet, Mary obeyed, her knees were almost buckling beneath her. Minutes passed in silence as Mary tried to process what was happening.
“Why have you come to me?” She lifted her to gaze to the angel before her and Gabriel smiled with compassion.
He drew himself up to an enormous height and with a resounding voice announced, “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name 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 the house of Jacob forever. His kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be since I am a virgin?”
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, so the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elisabeth, your relative, is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”
“I am the Lord's servant,” Mary bowed her head and folded her hands in her lap. “May it be to me as you have said.” Shaky limbs kept her rooted to her stool. When the angel did not say anything else she dared to look up and discovered he was gone.
For a short time, she sat in stunned silence, unsure if she had been dreaming, or if it had been real. I am to have a child? A holy child of the Most High God?
“I wonder how it will happen?” she muttered as she resumed milking Olive. “What did the angel say Olive? The power of the Most High would overshadow me. What does that mean? Will I know when it happens? Will it hurt?”
Olive bleated, turned and nudged Mary with her nose. “I’m sorry Olive. I will try to be gentle. It’s just that I’m a little overwhelmed right now.” She explained as she lessened her grip on Olive’s udders.
“How will I explain this to Joseph?” She gasped. “Joseph!” She stopped milking Olive and placed her hand on her abdomen. “Do you think he will believe me, Olive? Or will he think I have been unfaithful to him?”
Olive bleated again and began to move away. Mary snatched the full bucket away from the errant goat’s hooves and slowly walked back to the house.
Will he think I am crazy if I tell him the truth? She wondered. What am I to do? How will I explain it to everyone?
Keeping her virginity was something her parents had taught her was special and important. They had warned her that if she ever lost it before marriage not only could she be stoned, but she could also lose her chance to be used by God.
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.’ 
The scripture all but shouted at her. Why me? Why am I highly favoured? Does that mean that the prophecies are being fulfilled in me this very day?
“Elisabeth! Gabriel said Elisabeth was with child – in her sixth month. I must see her at once for surely the Lord has favoured her as well.”
 Isaiah 7:14