Mary, the teenaged girl who was to become the mother of Jesus, was confused and disturbed by the angel’s words to her: “You are greatly favored.” She was young, unknown. She lived in a dusty small town. She loved God, but I suspect she never dreamed that He had His eye on her for something special. I don’t think it occurred to Mary that she was the apple of His eye. Certainly she never entertained the thought that God would place her in the vortex of history’s most significant event.
God must enjoy surprising us with His favor. When I read Mary’s song of praise, I hear her exultant wonder. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked on the humble estate of His servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name” (Luke 1:46-48). Mary knew God’s favor was undeserved. Nobody earns the honor to become Jesus’ mother. Favor is the same word as grace. But she knew He “looked” on her. He saw her. He chose her for this special service.
God “looked on Mary” and His eye was on a couple of old folks at the same time. Zechariah and Elizabeth were a faithful, God-fearing, childless couple. In that culture children were a sign of favor. Barrenness was a word drenched in empty-armed longing and grieving. I doubt Elizabeth and Zechariah felt favored, chosen, destined. They had stopped looking for an answer to this prayer when the angel announced: a baby was on the way. And not just a baby, a baby boy who would become the forerunner of the long-awaited Messiah. Grace multiplied..
I consider the events around the birth of Jesus. The Incarnation seeps grace. I’m bent towards introspection and self-examination. I think a bit of that is healthy, even critical to finishing well. But another exercise is becoming more prominent for me: abiding in His favor.
I want to picture myself standing in the grace of God, as in a spotlight, bathed in unmerited favor. So I remind myself that God sees me. He knows me, loves me and intends to use me. He loves to use unknown, insignificant people of no notable ability or acclaim. I’m never too old or too young for God’s attention or eye-of-destiny. I live as His favorite child, along with all His other favored ones. I’m confident of this place of favor because I belong to Jesus. All good things, every blessing, every trial, every answered prayer, every delayed answer, comes to me IN Christ.
This is a reality to cultivate—and relish. This is at the heart of living the mystery.