“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you. Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”
On a day at the beginning of the Common Era, an angel named Gabriel visited with a young girl.
That young girl was named Mary, a virgin who was engaged to a man named Joseph. The angel paid a visit because he had a message of hope for her and her people and for all of humanity and creation.
“Mary, you have found favor with God and so you will conceive and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.”
In response she said, “I am a virgin. How can this be?”
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you. The child will be holy. He will be called the Son of God. He will be given the ancient throne that God long ago promised to David and his family. His kingdom will reign forever.”
And Mary gives possibly the most courageous and faithful response recorded in human history while potentially reminding us of some words the prophet Isaiah said, “Here am I, servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1:26-38)
As we find ourselves in this advent season of preparation for the great celebration of the birth of our long-awaited King Jesus, I am struck most by this question, “How can this be?” and the concept of favor as it relates to the current state of our world and even more, the state of the community that is committed to following Jesus.
I find connection with Mary’s questioning, “But how can this be?” as I struggle with my own faith journey that questions a culture of fear and exclusiveness by some in the global church that contradicts both Isaiah and Mary.
I am asking, as Mary did, “How can this be” when I hear demeaning words of some fellow Christians as it relates to complicated issues like refugees seeking shelter and immigrants that are illegal or legal as they search for work and ways to support their families. And some not even trying to understand that the Black Lives Matter movement is about people wanting all lives to matter and not feeling like they do.
I wonder about this word “favor” that comes from the mouth of the angel. I think through what this favor meant - the nine months of pregnancy at such a young age, the unbelievably difficult task of giving birth, almost being sent away by her husband-to-be, the communal exile, the years raising this “holy” child, the persecution and hatred that would be received because of the man the baby would become, and the pain of watching one’s own son tortured and crucified.
And so, as I ask “how can this be?” I believe I find an answer in our misunderstanding of what the favor of God means in our lives.
Throughout history, most of us at some time have carried with us hints of God’s favor toward his chosen people, and with it comes our human desires for God to bless us the way we want God to bless us. But God’s favor tends to be quite different than we could imagine.
In a time where the world is filled with refugees, we have the favor of God to lovingly embrace them and welcome them into our homes, even with the possibility of danger that comes with it.
We have the favor to lovingly listen to the Black Lives Matter movement and be willing to acknowledge if we have been a part of making anyone feel as though their life doesn’t matter.
We have the favor to show loving hospitality toward immigrants that enter our countries looking for work or simply a little help in life, and find legitimate global solutions to the issues we face of an ever-increasing wealth gap within countries and between countries.
I believe that the world is dying for a favored people of God to show up and be these things, and to be willing to die for them, because it is what the most favored One of God did.
When we do this, the world will be filled with hope - we will wipe tears from eyes, and we will lessen the reasons for pain and sorrow. We will be the people of the Way, as the early Christians were often called, and “they will know we are Christians by our love.”
“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you. Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God.”