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Favored by God

December 22, 2013

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!’ But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.”  Luke 1:26-29

It is funny how much we evangelicals struggle with Mary.  I guess it is because we were brought up being taught that we didn’t want to be “too Catholic” and perhaps saw her as the exclusive domain of Catholics.  Yet, at the same time, we knew that since she was called by the angel “favored one” that we couldn’t just ignore her.

I think that many of us still struggle to express appreciation for her.  Most of the time, when I hear an evangelical giving Mary praise, it is almost always followed with a qualifier of some sort.  You know what I mean, the “of course, I don’t think calling her the queen of heaven is appropriate” or something like that.  It is almost as if we become self-appointed guardians wanting to make sure she not think of herself more highly than she ought.

Yet that passage above always intrigues me.  She has just been told she was favored by God and her reaction was to be troubled and confused.  Me?  Favored?  It seems pretty clear that she had not until this point ever considered herself to be high in God’s esteem.  Her mind was spinning even before the angel had laid on her the reason for the visit.

Have you ever wondered just what it was that made Mary “favored?”    Was she some sort of 1st century version of the perfect youth group teenager?  Always sweet, always cheerful, always pure, always kind?   Just what was it about her that made her so special?  She clearly was mystified by that question.  So why was she favored by God?

I think that most evangelicals would respond to that question by painting a picture of a contemporary purity culture teen; sweetly content to wait until marriage for sex, untroubled and untempted to be anything other than the ideal girl waiting patiently to be the ideal submissive wife.  I don’t doubt that, were we not so Mary-shy, a lot of youth group leaders would be drawing pictures of her as a model for how we too can be favored by God.

I keep thinking that the core of Mary’s troubled response was her conviction that the angel probably had the wrong girl; that she had done nothing to make her favored by God and knew it well.  She knew she didn’t have the résumé to qualify for the title favored.   But I think the answer to the question lies in her response.  At the end of the story she says “let it be to me according to your word.”  Her answer was to simply trust God.  Period.

We are always more comfortable with the idea of being worthy of God’s favor though things we have done than the idea that He just gives His favor freely.  But maybe God looked on her with favor because that is what God does.  Mary’s response tells us she grasped that His favor did not depend on her actions.  He chose to favor her, an obscure Jewish teenager, in the same way He chose to favor a fisherman, a tax collector, a prostitute, and a smug Pharisee.

Mary accepted that she was favored by God simply because He said she was.  The announcement of favor didn’t trigger her denials, didn’t trigger a smug assurance that she was worthy.  It was a simple trust that she was what God said she was because He said so.  May that be a model for us?  May our worth be based not on legalistic rules, not on what culture or society says, not on any of the thousand voices that want to confuse us?  Perhaps Mary’s Christmas message to us is that the favor of God comes from His grace and not our worthiness.

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From → Christianity

One Comment
  1. If I understand you correctly, I agree. Mary was favored by God because God chose to favor her, and for no other reason. Same reason God chose Noah. Merry Christmas!

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