ROPE 1 for the Advent, 2015

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner 1896

Reveal: 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.” – Luke 1:28-30

Observations: Twice the angel says Mary is favored. She is “highly” favored, and has “found favor with God.” There is a connotation in favored of deserving or having gained it; in grace, there is only the free gift. Mary has grace, or has received grace from God—probably both. The angel’s words in v. 28b may clarify: “The Lord is with you.” He is the source of the grace we receive, and He responds to grace in us. Mary’s response: humility. She doesn’t even understand that she is favored by God. She was “troubled” by the greeting, fearful of what it might portend, perhaps. As always with the obedient, God reassures her. Gabriel tells her not to be afraid and reiterates God’s grace toward her and her position as favored by Him. Gabriel’s message to her that follows in vs. 31-33 is perplexing and ominous and thrilling and mysterious. Mary answers in vs. 34 with confusion—not doubt. Gabriel answers her confusion with a prophecy of God’s work in her. After the exchange, and the future of her holy Son is foretold, Mary’s only response is acceptance: “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” (v. 38) In that culture, she must have known that she would be shamed and perhaps threatened with death when her community sees that she’s pregnant and unmarried. Gabriel has promised her that her Son will be born, so she knows she’ll survive to deliver Him. She voices no objection at the difficulty this may cause her. Unlike Moses at the burning bush, who resists God’s orders, Mary willingly receives the word from the Lord.

Prayer: Father, I pray that You’d make me as obedient as Mary, the highly favored one. I’m so often more like Moses at the burning bush, filled with doubt and fear at what others will do to me when I obey You. Yet Mary simply accepted Your command, acknowledged that You are God and she was Your servant, and endorsed Your words to her. Lord God, may Your word to me be fulfilled. Thank You for receiving my confusion lovingly and patiently. I pray that You would fill me with grace, with favor. Do Your work in me and through me, and forgive me when I resist or fear. Remind me, Lord, of Mary’s willing acceptance and endorsement of Your word to her, and bring to my mind that like her, I am the Lord’s servant. Work Your will through me, Lord. Don’t let my weaknesses cause You to enact Your plan otherwise when You desire to bless me by using me for Your glory.

Exercise: Be like Mary in obedience, acceptance, and endorsement of God’s word to you. Thereby, be highly favored.

 

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