Scripture: Luke 1:26-38
Key verses: (28-30) 28And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
Reflection: How fitting that going into the last Sunday of Advent we read the Annunciation. Each year we are reminded of this story, how Mary, a virgin woman, was told by an angel that she will give birth to a son, and he will be great and be called the Son of the Most High. Two things stick with me as I read: favor and call.
Mary is the “favored one” and is told “do not be afraid.” To be favored is to be regarded as worthy, endowed with special gifts, or providing preferential treatment. It is no small thing to be regarded and favored, especially if you are exceedingly aware that you should not be. Mary is set apart as worthy and told that she will conceive and give birth to the Son of God. Was there ever a time you when you were favored or highly regarded? What emotions and feelings come to mind? As we near Christmas day, in the midst of everything this season throws your way or _______ (fill in the blank), what would it feel like to know, remember, and experience the knowledge that God favors you? This season is often other-focused: the shopping, the gatherings, the giving, the hosting. To remember God’s favor towards you, in the middle of all this stuff, shifts my priorities and helps to reclaim the incarnational celebration. How about you?
This passage is also a call story. We find all the typical elements present: a greeting (1:28), a startled reaction (1:29), a “do not fear” exhortation (1:30), a divine commission (1:31-33), an objection (1:34), a reassurance (1:35), and a sign of confirmation (1:36-37). Mary is called to a prophetic task, one in which no other human will ever be called: bearing and nursing Jesus, the Son of God. Mary is one of the many people of faith the Scripture bears witness to and we celebrate, but she is the only one who is identified as “God-bearer” (theotokos in Greek). It is this distinctive vocation that she serves as a model for the church in relationship to God, revealing what it means for us, in turn, to bear God to the world.
Mary was favored in the eyes of God and was called to a particular vocation. Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord.” Mary turns out to be not simply the mother of Jesus but an ideal role model for all followers of Jesus: a servant of God who embodies faith and faithfulness. Recognizing Mary’s call as theotokos and her faithfulness during her life leads us to ask questions about the character of our relationship to God. What does it mean to say that Mary (and we) are the bearers of God? I wonder how things might shift if we constantly remind ourselves (and others) of our divine favor and divine calling. The angle speaks to us too, “the Lord is with you… Do not be afraid.”
Prayer: Calling God, in all my brokenness, here I am, a servant of the Lord. Help me, by your mighty grace, to be a beacon of your light in the world. In the midst of the busy holiday calendar, remind me of your call on my life, to share in the good news of your coming Son the hope of indwelling love.
Author: Ben Brannan
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].