Wonder at the wonder!
“And [the angel Gabriel] came to [Mary] and said, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ ” Luke 1:28
This week I was reminded several times of this: to wonder at the wonder of the familiar Christmas story. For example, like when the archangel Gabriel (who first appears several hundred years earlier to the prophet Daniel) breaks into Mary’s ordinary day with, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you,” filling her ears and heart with wonder.
Through the angel, God is choosing Mary, not because she is perfect or for the work she has done, or her loveliness, or even her pure heart. Indeed, Mary identifies herself as lowly and poor and she likely was NOT one who was favored in Nazareth, but O, how God loves her!
“Rejoice, highly favored one!” the literal translation, is God playing favorites, God choosing her, simply because it is God’s good pleasure to do so. It is God’s choosing that Mary would, through the power of the Holy Spirit, set into motion God’s perfect plan of salvation for all people.
Mary is a virgin, yet she will conceive and bear a son who is to be named Jesus, who will be the Son of God. And that is the “easy part” of the story. For we read that with God, nothing is impossible. God speaks and creation happens!
As Martin Luther saw it, the great wonder or the “hard part” of the story is this: Mary BELIEVES the word that Gabriel speaks to her. She believes it! Against all odds, this young girl takes God at his word and dares to believe that this glorious thing will happen — for her and for all the earth.
She did not allow herself to wallow in “what-ifs”: what if I bring shame upon Joseph? What if this goes horribly wrong? What if Joseph leaves me? What if my village punishes me for this pregnancy?
There are NO what-ifs. Wonder of wonders, Mary is willing and pleased to be part of God’s wonderful plan. “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38).
It is hard, isn’t it, to believe that God so favors his children? That what God says, God indeed does do? Child of God, these are promises for you to cling to, as Mary did, that God, who calls himself EMMANUEL, GOD WITH US, is truly with YOU—simply because God says so. That Jesus, whose name means SAVIOR, saves YOU, his beloved child, from sin and from death and from all evil — simply because God says so. That you are a highly favored one (Ephesians 1:6), chosen by him (John 15:16-17) — simply because God says so.
God is playing favorites still — and you, child of God, are one of them. Have you considered that Almighty God gazes upon you with FAVOR, with GRACE? God does. God looks upon Mary and loves her completely as she is. God looks upon YOU, favored one, and loves you completely as you are.
Wonder at the wonder!