Six months after the angel Gabriel’s visit to Zachariah announcing that his aged wife Elizabeth will conceive a son, Gabriel visits a Jewish peasant maiden named Mary. He tells her that she is favored and blessed among women and has been chosen by God to conceive and bear a son whom she will call Jesus. Gabriel’s visit to Mary is known as the Annunciation.
Of course, Mary wonders how this can occur as she is a virgin. Gabriel tells her “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. (Luke 1:35) Mary then says, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)
The term overshadow does not refer to divine sexual activity as found in Greek myths of gods impregnating women. By using the Greek term for overshadow, Luke emphasizes the miraculous circumstances of Jesus’ conception and removes any thoughts of sexual intercourse. The emphasis here is that Jesus has human and divine origins.
In other words, the entire birth story is not a matter of biology. It is a matter of religious truths and beliefs. Mary represents the faithful of Israel who respond to God’s call for humble loving service.
Whatever your belief or acceptance or rejection of these birth narratives, all gospels want to make it clear that Jesus is God who comes to us in the flesh. His incarnation is a new creative act and revelation by God.