Monday, December 19, 2022
Reader: “The Word became flesh,”
Response: “And dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.”
Scripture: Luke 1:26-38
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and sa
id, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she’s now in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”
Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.
Stop and think about it. For thousands of years the world proceeded from day to day, sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset . . . People are born every day; people die every day. These things happen all the time, today included. Yet, one day many years ago, was different from all those that had existed since the dawn of creation, and utterly unlike all those that followed up to today. It was the day the angel, Gabriel, made a visit to a teenage girl in Israel named Mary. From all accounts Mary was minding her own business and engaged to a man by the name of Joseph who was a carpenter. Their families lived in a small, very ordinary village of Nazareth in southern Galilee. There was nothing to indicate anything unusual regarding Mary except the Lord had ‘favor’ toward her.
“Favor” is an interesting word. Being favored by God is even more compelling. Note in Mary’s case what “favored by God” meant. Gabriel articulates “favor.” The “Lord is with you.” God’s presence surrounds you; you are not alone. God chose you specifically. God will act in your life. “You will conceive and give birth to a son” to be named Jesus. In this case, being favored by God includes being the mother of the Son of God! Your Son will have an eternal Kingdom. This is overwhelming “favor!” Mary asked a practical question, not in disbelief for she believed Gabriel, but in seeking to understand what was happening. After hearing Gabriel’s straightforward answer, Mary responded humbly, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you said about me come true.”
So what do we know about receiving the Lord’s favor? Mary did not seek the Lord’s favor, it originated with him. The heart of bestowing favor comes from the heart of God. This kind of favor is not something people can work for, nor expect to receive. It comes from God’s grace and his loving purpose for each of his children. The root of “favor” is in charis, grace, specifically grace on the part of the giver. It is purely a gift from the heart of the giver.
I have a very dear long-time friend, who, when talking about his life of ministry all over the world frequently says, “I feel so favored by God.” The testimony of his life is filled with affirmations of God’s favor as evidenced by the advance of the gospel in which he has been involved. Finding God’s favor is at God’s discretion. We have examples of Noah (Gen 6:8), David (Acts 7:46), and Daniel (Dan 1:9) receiving the favor of the Lord. Also, occurring frequently in Scripture, we read of God causing certain people to come into favor with someone else as part of fulfilling God’s grand plan. Esther (Es 5:2), Joseph (Gen 39:4), and Ruth (Ru 2:10) would be such examples. The bottom line regarding favor? It appears that humble people obedient to God’s voice are the ones who receive his favor. And remember, God’s favor does not always mean a life of comfort and ease! Note the lives of the people we have mentioned including the mother of Jesus.
Music: “For Ages Women Hoped and Prayed” Wheaton Bible Church
“Angels We Have Heard on High” Home Free (Could not leave this out!)
Lord God of heaven and earth, enlarge our souls with Thy divine favor, that we may hope all things, endure all things; and become messengers of Thy healing mercy to the grievances and infirmities of men. In all things attune our hearts to the holiness and harmony of Thy kingdom. And hasten the time when Thy kingdom shall come, and Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen. ―James Martineau, adapted Daniel Sharp, from Prayers Ancient and Modern, p.356