"Greetings, favored one, the Lord is with you." Luke 1:28
Throughout the ages, artists have tried to illustrate the mysterious moment when the angel of God came to Mary and announced God's favor with her. But I think even more than seeing what the scene looked like, I would love to know this: what kind of woman, living in the unseen moments of her everyday life, would find favor with God?
Oh, how I wish the words the angel said expressed how God felt about me! Would God see me as the kind of woman He would choose now to mother the most high God? By what means did she find favor, in the hidden moments of her life?
Mary lived in a tiny, obscure village amidst a humdrum life. Wheat was ground, bread was pounded out on wooden tables, crumbs were swept from the floor, children lovingly tended, mother and father presided over the home, the Shema was listened to every day over shared family meals, the Sabbath was kept. Mary lived in invisibility in the moments of an ordinary, obscure life, as far as anyone around her knew. And yet, in the quiet, faithful living of her life, God noticed her. God saw her, and she found favor and pleased His heart.
God always sees even when no one else is noticing.
Imagine being greeted by an angel, in the midst of a normal day, when no one else knew,--"Hail favored one."
What would he find you doing? Believing? Saying? Studying?
And then, "Mary, do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God."
Really? She did not have a college degree or a ministry position or title and had never published a book or even spoken in the synagogue--and yet, in the midst of her quiet life, she had found favor with God.
We don't know every detail of Mary's life, and the Bible doesn't tell us exactly why He chose her. But there are clues. Being the mother of Jesus would require a tenacious, steady, engaged faith. As his mother, her own life would be in danger. Jesus would be pursued by a crazy king, and at every point, people would cast doubt on her irregular, fantastical story.
Satan wanted to prevent Jesus becoming Savior, and Mary would be His protector--a shelter from danger, a nurturer of his soul, a provider of truth, a teacher and trainer, a strength in storms--all of these things she would be asked to be for God, the baby entrusted into her hands.
She would have to move, put up with peer pressure in her own village, believe in the miraculous, be obscure amongst the humble, live amidst despised Egyptians. Her life would be filled with stress, pressure, rejection, fear, loneliness and questions.
And yet, God had called her favored. He had seen her heart, He had noticed her response throughout her life, He had tested her willingness to obey, and she had been found faithful, and so she was favored.
Her response, ready on her lips, must have been practiced in her heart.
"“Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38
God looked for one who would serve Him, willingly, readily, at the moment of His impossible request, one who would respond in utter submission.
Is that my heart--to obey, willingly, whatever He would ask?
Is that my response to this life He has given to me--"be it done according to your will for I am your bond-servant?" Even if it means sacrifice of the plans I hold dear? Even if it means being misunderstood? Rejected? Chased? Inconvenienced? Even if it requires me to have courage against fears that will assail my life?
Elizabeth, her older cousin, gives us another clue about Mary's choosing ...
"And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”
Mary believed God.
She had a heart ready to believe Him, trust Him with all that it would require of her, to await the miraculous, to live through long years of waiting and quiet and mundanity, as she waited to see this little baby become the expected Messiah, the fulfillment of His role as a savior.
She believed there would be a fulfillment.
She had practiced believing in Him her whole life and this, I think, was in part, what would qualify her to be the mother of the son of God.
And so God shined His light on my soul this early morning as I pondered Mary in His presence--am I ready to believe, to obey wherever He takes me, to await the fulfillment of His word and to choose to believe in His future fulfillment of faithfulness in my own life and in my own prayers--even if the ultimate fulfillment will take years and years, as it did for Mary?
Today, as I live amongst feasting, gift-wrapping, cleaning, sharing hearts and thoughts, singing beloved hymns at church, and celebrating in the sparkle of our Christmas home, I hope that He will find me in the integrity of my heart, obeying, responding, and bowing my knee to His will, as a bondservant whose heart is ready to follow, obey, and accept the limitations of a world at battle for righteousness.
May He prepare your heart today to worship in the quietness of your life, right where you are. May He bless you with His peace and grace.
I pray you have a most blessed and favored Christmas season, and that God gently leads you and me to embrace for our lives the integrity that characterizes the story of Mary, His choice to be the mother of His own Son.