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 Newsweek Cover: The Birth of Jesus

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Dec. 13 issue - The news was unwelcome, baffling, frightening; nothing about it was expected or explicable. Roughly 2,000 years ago, according to the Gospel of Luke, in Nazareth of Galilee, a young woman found herself in the presence of Gabriel, the angelic messenger of the Lord whose name was known to Jews of the day as the mysterious figure who had granted Daniel his prophetic visions. The woman, Luke writes, was "a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David," and her name was Mary, Luke's Greek form of the Hebrew Miriam, the sister of Moses and the first great prophetess of Israel. "Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee," Gabriel said, "blessed art thou amongst women"—terrifying Mary, who "was troubled at his saying." Stunned and confused, Mary made no reply, her face apparently betraying anxiety and awe. Sensing her confusion and fear, Gabriel was reassuring: "Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God."


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