O Favored One: The Angel and Mary

A Communion Meditation by Rev. Karen A. Mendes

Luke 1: 26-38

Dec. 6, 2020

Main Idea:  God calls us to extraordinary actions

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts, be acceptable in thy sight O Lord our strength and our redeemer.  Amen.

Now that December has arrived, the Christmas decorations are going up all-around, and we see more and more angels among us.  During this Advent season we are listening to angels and pondering our own responses to them.  Last week we heard the angel Gabriel speak to Zechariah and today Gabriel is back again!  Last week we were reminded that God shakes us up.  God’s call may come at any time and change the course of our lives.  This morning we will explore Mary’s response to Gabriel’s message.  Mary shows us how to be a person of faith.  God calls us ordinary folk to extraordinary actions.

The text begins with a swirling of angel’s wings.  We enter the story with Gabriel; from God to Galilee to Nazareth to the house of David to Mary, a young woman in a small town.  The first words of Gabriel are not “Do not be afraid”, which is the usual angelic greeting.  Instead Gabriel says ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ (1:28)  What makes her favored?  She hasn’t done anything yet.  We are not told that she is righteous and blameless as Zechariah and Elizabeth were described.  Mary is favored because she is a child of God.  God loves her for just being herself.   But Mary does not understand that yet.  The text says that “she was much perplexed by [Gabriel’s] words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  Remember that nothing has been said yet about a baby!  Mary ponders Gabriel’s greeting and wonders about what it means that “the Lord is with her”.    “Why me?” she wonders, “Why here in the sleepy backwater of Nazareth?  Why now?”  When an angel comes to you and says that you are favored by God, that is a lot to think about!

It is at this point that Gabriel says “Do not be afraid Mary” and Gabriel repeats that she has found favor with God.  Then comes the really extraordinary news.  “And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (1:31-33).  

Now, the angelic proclamation to Zechariah was the fulfillment of a long hoped-for dream.  He and Elizabeth had prayed and prayed for a child and Gabriel let them know that their prayers had been answered.    But the pronouncement to Mary is completely unexpected.  She is a young person, still living in her parents’ home.  She has not prayed for a child.  Certainly, the idea of raising a great King had never entered her mind.  But she doesn’t doubt Gabriel.  She instead asks, ‘How can this be, since I have not known a man.” (1:34).  “You may have come to the wrong house, the wrong town, the wrong province.  I am not a mother.  I am just Mary.

Throughout Scripture, when God calls people, they often raise up reasons for why they were not worthy of the calling.  Moses couldn’t speak well, Jeremiah was just a boy, Jonah chose to run away.  But God is never swayed by those objections.  God simply promises to be with them in their task and always.  And this is what Gabriel tells Mary; ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.” (1:35).  This will be a partnership; a working together to bring the divine into the human experience.  And just to reassure you; “your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” (1:36-37)

“For nothing will be impossible with God”, nothing is impossible with God.  Do we believe this?  Do we believe that God can enter our lives and change them completely?   Do we believe that we can partner with God to bring God’s love into the world? 

Mary believes this.  She says yes to God, even though she risks her life.  She knows that her life will never be the same.  She knows that her family and community will not understand.  But she trusts God’s providence and care.  She tells Gabriel, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ (1:38).  With her assent, Mary is transformed from a country girl into a prophet who will sing the Gospel before her child is even born. 

On this Second Sunday of Advent Gabriel challenges us to understand ourselves as favored, beloved children of God through whom God plans to do extraordinary, marvelous things.  Let’s stop and think about this for a moment.  This year we have seen many, many examples of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. 

Doctors, nurses, nurses’ aids, hospital cleaning staff caring for the sick and the elderly.  Teachers, school staff, bus drivers, childcare providers caring for our young people.   Grocery store workers, postal workers, poll workers, marchers and organizers for racial justice.  Church and non-profit volunteers providing food and resources to those in need.  All of these people have done more this year than they ever expected to do.  We have all sacrificed to keep each other safe.  We, who are ordinary, have done the extraordinary.

Gabriel’s visit to Mary reveals to us that God plans to bring peace and justice and joy to the world through us and other ordinary, favored, and beloved people from around the globe.  This calling may cause us to be perplexed, to ponder, and even to perhaps be afraid of what God calls us to do.  God does not say that it will be easy. In fact, we know that it will be hard; it will require courage and struggle and sacrifice.  It certainly required those things of Mary.  But God promises to be with us at all times; sustaining us, guiding us, and loving us.  God will lead us to peace, and justice, and joy.

As we prepare our hearts and minds for the celebration of the Lord’s supper, I invite you to ponder how you partner with God to bring God’s love into the world.  Our world is in such desperate need.  Let us be like Mary and say yes to God.

Let us pray, 

Dear God, we thank you for your angels who come to us bringing comfort and challenge.  We thank you for Mary who shows us how to follow you.  We thank you for Jesus, our Savior, whose birth among us changes everything.  Amen.