Besides Jesus, the most recognized person in the Christmas story is Mary. She is known for her humility and overwhelming gratefulness for being chosen by God to receive into her the Son of God.
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 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, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1
Mary is overwhelmed at what she hears. She is going to have a child without having been intimate with a man! She will be part of a miracle! Add to that the fact that this child will be the very Son of God and it is easy to see why Mary would be shocked at what the angel’s announcement. Her life is about to be radically altered. There will be so many questions, so many emotions, and so many accusations. It is easy to see why the first words that Mary find the strength to utter would be:
“How can this be?”
And yet beyond the difficulty of understanding how she could become pregnant and beyond the realization that she will give birth to the Son of God is something else stunning. Something else still plays over and over in her mind. Something else is still difficult for her to process and make sense of. She keeps hearing the words of the angel in her heart:
“You have found favor with God.”
How could this be? She had done nothing to deserve such favor. She was not from nobility. She was not part of religious leadership. She did not have a long list of religious accomplishments. She was poor. She was unknown. She was frail, weak, and well aware that she was far from perfect. Yet she is chosen by God. Her final words to the angel reveal the humility and simplicity of her heart.
“I am the Lord’s servant,” said Mary; “may it happen to me as you have said.”
We watch in awe at her response to God. We attempt to put ourselves in her shoes and wonder what we would have done. Would we have believed? Would we have accepted what God was saying? Would we have humbly received the angel’s words as true? Then we settle back into reality with the thought, “That will never happen to me.” We distance ourselves from the reality and return to life as we know it.
And yet God speaks to us.
God speaks through the life and death of Jesus and says to us, “You are chosen. You are loved. Your sins are forgiven. You are made righteous. You have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies. You have found favor with God.” These words seem unbelievable. How can this be? I don’t deserve this! I am weak! I am frail! I have a past! I couldn’t live up to that!
The message of God to us in Christ is filled with stunning favor.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. 11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.
We find it hard to believe. And yet God invites us to do the same thing that Mary did – respond with humility and receive what has been said. As we do, the Son of God births new life within us. We become a new creation. We experience the very life of God within us. By the humble response of faith, we can have the same heart and response as Mary to this overwhelming and stunning news:
“I am the Lord’s servant, may it happen to me as you have said.”