In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Have you ever wondered why God picked Mary to be the mother of Jesus? What were her qualifications? Did she have some special piety or righteousness? Was her faith above other girls of her day? Was she better able to protect this Messiah she would raise?
It doesn’t seem so. Luke goes into much more detail about Mary than any other gospel, yet even here there’s nothing other than she’s a young, poor, powerless girl with no real experience at much of anything.
Yet God’s messenger Gabriel visits her, tells her she’s favored by God, that God is with her, not to be afraid, and tells her again that she’s favored by God. Then he goes on to describe in some detail this son she is being asked to bear whose kingdom will never end.
Mary is confused, suspicious, and has doubts about this whole plan. She also points out an obvious flaw around her becoming pregnant. She may be young, but she knows where babies come from, after all. What she is, therefore, is just kind of normal.
Gabriel tells her that this isn’t any kind of obstacle for God. Take a look at Elizabeth, who’s never been able to have children, yet now in her old age is six months pregnant. Nothing is impossible with God.
Can you imagine, though, how frightening that must have been for her? Would you want that responsibility? “By the way, Mary, the salvation of all humanity is resting on this baby. So, don’t mess this up.”
What if she is a terrible mother? What if the baby gets sick? What if, instead of being a savior, he turns into a terrorist? What if, because of her, this bizarre plan of salvation doesn’t work?
What if she’s not competent enough?
“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” says the angel. “God is with you.”
What’s fascinating about Mary is not how qualified she is to be the mother of Jesus. It’s that the only qualification she has is that she’s favored by God.
What in the world does that even mean? Is Mary like the teacher’s pet? The favored child? Does God now play favorites? What is it to be “favored by God”?
The word translated as “favored one” is rooted in the word for “grace,” and implies not something she’s done to make God like her more, but that she is the recipient of grace—God is with her. Which doesn’t separate Mary from the pack, but makes her part of the rest of humanity. God is present with us all.
Now, I don’t want to be disparaging of Mary the mother of Jesus, but according to Luke’s account here, the only qualification she really has is the same qualification each one of us has too. God is present with her.
Even if she has weaknesses that get in the way, even if she doesn’t have all the answers at her fingertips, if she can’t do this perfectly, that’s all OK. Because God has promised to be with her through it all. She is favored. God’s grace is given to her. God is with her.
Just like God is with us. We, too, are blessed. We, too, are favored. We, too, have the presence of God with us.
And just like Mary, being favored by God means you are chosen for something. Not being the mother of Jesus—that job has been taken already. But like Mary, you too have found favor with God. God notices you and has something in mind for you. And God will be with you through it all.
That’s not how we’re used to thinking, though. We tend to be so concerned about messing it up, that we generally avoid doing things God has in mind. I think we’re so worried about failing, doing it wrong, that we believe our efforts would be more sinful than helpful. We better avoid sinning, so we neglect to consider that God might still be asking us.
And the angel says to you, “You have found favor with God. Do not be afraid. God is with you.”
God isn’t asking any of us to do big things in the reign of God because we’re competent, or qualified, or so much better than anyone else. It’s not like our resume is so dramatically impressive. No, just like Mary, we’re asked to be part of God’s work because God favors us, God’s grace comes to us, God is with us. That’s our qualification.
- What might God be asking of you? Are you not thinking about it because it might be just kinda normal things? They probably are. But you are still the favored one.
- What might God be asking of you? Are you not considering it because you don’t have special “Godly” qualifications for it? Too young, don’t know enough. Don’t go to church enough. Not spiritual enough. You probably aren’t qualified. But God is with you.
- What might God be asking of you? Does even the thought of messing it up, doing it badly frighten you? Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God.
What might God be asking of you? Remember, nothing will be impossible for God. Even accomplishing amazing things through you. May we answer with young, poor, powerless Mary, “Here we are, servants of the Lord; let it be with us according to your word.”