In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
Advent is a season of waiting. We wait for Christmas to arrive. We wait to open presents under the tree. We wait for visits from family members traveling from far away. We wait for traditions to be renewed and enjoyed by younger generations. We also remember what it was like for the world to wait for Jesus to come. As we read through the Old Testament, we see clues that should have helped people long ago know where, how and through whom the Savior would come. We get to read those old prophecies through the eyes of faith and with the benefit of knowing how it all turned out, but for the people of Mary’s generation, and many who lived before her, the glory of God’s promised salvation was obscured by misinterpretations and misplaced hopes in the wrong type of savior. They were waiting for God to save them, but they didn’t yet understand how it would happen.
So, you can imagine how surprising the angel’s words must have been for Mary. First, she would have been shocked that God had taken notice of her, a young woman from a small town, pledged to be married to a man from an unremarkable family, despite their ancestral connection to King David 1,000 years before. Mary had no claim to fame or right to feel special above other young women of her time. The angel said she was “highly favored,” which was a way of acknowledging the extraordinary grace of God that chose her for this special calling. Then, Mary had to take in the enormity of the task to which she was being called. She would give birth to a son, not Joseph’s son, not a son conceived in the usual way of a husband and a wife, but the Son of the Most High. She would bear God’s own Son, and He would be a king to reign forever over God’s people.
None of us has ever been asked to do what Mary did. Her contribution to the Kingdom of God will always remain uniquely special. God asks us to do different work, but we share something vitally important with Mary: God invites us to play a role, however quiet or simple it may seem, in bringing to fulfillment the great promise of salvation. Many people still wait to meet the Savior. Some still don’t realize that Jesus’ birth is good news for them. We who are highly favored by God and covered already by his abundant grace, can joyfully share the Christmas story and let the world know that the Savior has come.
Father in Heaven, thank You for sending Your Son into the world and for inviting people like Mary and like me to join in the work of Your Kingdom. Help me to serve You and to love others in my Savior’s name. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian