And so to Nazareth. A bit of a dump. long way from Jerusalem, up in the northern enclave of Galilee. The Jews up there were rural, a bit backward, but faithful and orthodox, unlike the half-blood Samaritans between them and Jerusalem down south. Galilee had some important towns - the Romans were building a big new shiny port at Sepphoris for instance - but Nazareth was poor. So poor in fact, that many people lived in caves, not even building houses for themselves. Can anything good come out of Nazareth?
But there was a teenage girl there with a pure heart. Gabriel found her, and told her that she had found the Lord's favour. Then he dropped a many-layered bombshell:
1. You're going to have a baby
2. He's going to be famous
3. He's actually going to take David's throne (ie. be the Messiah)
4. He's going to reign for all time.
Gabriel could have done with some lessons in diplomacy. At least he could have waited for Mary to assimilate the first shock, before hitting her with the rest. It's been 400 years since Malachi the prophet, the last time Israel heard the authentic voice of God. And now up pops an angel, telling Mary that every longing of Israel is going to be fulfilled in one little package, to be delivered in 9 months' time.
Mary asks a practical question, and Gabriel responds with news of another miracle - old Elizabeth is pregnant too! And he underlines how holy Mary's baby will be.
Are you ready to be overshadowed by the power of the Most High, Mary? I'll need to hurry you - can I have your answer?
Old Zechariah couldn't move fast enough. He couldn't switch his mind from despair to hope straight away, and Gabriel got impatient with him. Mary's young brain is more agile. Yes, she says. If the Lord has said it, bring it on.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Or in this case, be pregnant with him.