Throughout Advent, we posted blogs each week based on the Lectionary Readings for the previous Sunday. It was truly an awesome experience to travel through Advent with the universal church by praying, meditating, and responding to those texts. We loved it so much, we thought we’d do it again throughout Lent.
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, 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.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on 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 Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
— Luke 1:26-38 (NIV)
What does God’s favor look like? A happy family settled into a fine house with the security of a cushioned 401K, a successful career with a high salary? Having our children excel in their private lessons and their academic scores? Having the nicest lawn on the block with the newest model of luxury car in the garage?
If that’s how we view God’s favor, then we’ve mistakenly confused God’s favor with the American dream. No, they aren’t the same. In fact, they often work in opposition.
What did God’s favor look like for a young Galilean virgin we know as Mary, the mother of Jesus? God’s favor meant that she would become pregnancy with no believable explanation of who the father was. The pregnancy would make the suspicion of adultery highly likely, of which the punishment was death (Leviticus 20:10) by stoning (Deuteronomy 22:21). God’s favor meant giving birth to His Son–God’s Son–while on a trip she was obligated to take to a crowded city where she and Joseph, her husband-t0-be could find no room to stay, only to end up giving birth to her firstborn in a stable and placing Him to rest in a manger. God’s favor meant receiving a prophetic word from Simeon as she and Joseph presented Jesus to the Lord at the temple in Jerusalem that a sword would pierce her own soul. God’s favor meant he had chosen her to be the mother of a man who would commit no sin, yet would become sin in order to redeem those who would confess Him as Lord. God’s favor meant that He had chosen her to bring Him glory.
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38).
Was God’s favor a safe bet for Mary? Did it place her in a prestigious place in society? Was it financially a smart move?
The opportunity not to bring glory to oneself, but to bring glory to the Father.
Can we join in the prayer of the Psalm and say, “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us– yes, establish the work of our hands” (Psalm 90:17).