Sunday, December 7, 2014

Advent Reading Day 7 – Favored by God (Luke 1:26-33)

(Sorry about any typos. I'll come back to correct them when I have a bit more time.)

“Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”” (Luke 1:26–33, NASB95)

Six months after visiting Zechariah and Elizabeth becoming pregnant the angel Gabriel went to the city of Nazareth in the region of Galilee to make another birth pronouncement. This time is was to a virgin who was engaged to be married. Unlike Zechariah and Elizabeth who had been married for years and been unable to conceive and bear a child this young woman had not yet gotten married or become sexually active. While one was unable to conceive a child because of her being physically barren the other was unable to bear a child because she had been sexually pure waiting for the time of her marriage to her fiancé Joseph.

The angel greeted her, telling her that she was a favored one of God and that the Lord was with her. Probably not seeing herself as different from any other young woman, Mary was perplexed by the greeting. Why would the angel say these things to her? What had she done to gain such favor? She didn’t know why she had received such a greeting from an angel of the Lord and she kept wondering just what was going on.

Gabriel went on to quiet her uneasiness, telling her not to be afraid because she had found favor with God. The angels visit was a good thing. This was not a visit to correct her, but one to tell her just how blessed she was and about the great blessing she would bear. Then Gabriel moved to the heart of the reason for his visit, telling her that she would conceive and bear a son who she would name Jesus. This would not have been a big deal if it were meant as a future promise such as that given to Abraham where many years transpired in between. After all she was planning of getting married and children would have been in the natural course of life following her being wed to Joseph. But this was not what God intended.

The angel went on to say that this baby she was going to bear was going to be great. What an incredible thing to be told that your child was going to be used powerfully by God in his life. But this was not all, she was told that her son would be called the Son of the Most High. I don’t know if she grasped what she had just been told, that her son was going to be the Son of God as opposed to someone who follows God and is close to Him, but this was what she was told. Gabriel added that her son would be given the throne that David once held as king. This was an amazing proclamation. The young woman was going to have a child and her child would become the king that the people had long been waiting for, and not only that he would reign in such a way that his kingdom would continue without end.

The Jews had long been looking for their king. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:6–7, NASB95)

Her son was going to be this king as God was moving to keep a promise He made and restated numerous times hundreds and hundreds of years before. What had she done to be given this honor? What had she found such favor with God? As we read in the beginning of today’s passage, Mary kept pondering, and as she pondered I can just imagine her saying again and again to herself, “Why me?” and then even, “How can this be?”

The great part about reading Advent passages is the daily unfolding to the story of the birth of Jesus. At the same time it means that each day we reach a point where we must roll the paper back up, put it back on the calendar, hang an ornament, and await the next day’s reading. Having done this for many years I know what is coming next, but with my children who may not have this clearly in their minds it is a slowly building story in which they are left with questions that will be answered a little at a time. As we leave Mary for today we do so knowing that she also has some unanswered questions, ones that will soon be answered for her.

Faith is a gift from God. It is the ability to believe Him for things that we do not clearly see or maybe can’t fully grasp. It is trusting Him to do that which He said He would do even when we can’t see any way in which it might happen. It is giving ourselves back to Him as instruments of worshipful service knowing that what He intends for us is good. Mary was being blessed by God to become the mother or our Lord. There would be many years of watching him grow and wondering just how all of this would come to pass. There would be times of joy and amazement, and for her there would be times of great pain and distress. But God knew exactly what He was doing when He chose her and He was faithful to her just as He was to complete in His Son the work for which He as sent. And He is faithful to every single one of us who places our trust in His Son for the salvation which He gave Himself to give to us.

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