In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you. (Luke 1: 26-28)
When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary for the first time, it must have been an overwhelming experience. When a divine messenger shows up on your doorstep, how do you respond? I can imagine that Mary was stunned by such an angelic visit. Did she look like the proverbial “deer in the headlights” as God’s messenger greeted her? Where do you even begin with such an experience?
According to Luke, after Gabriel appears to Mary, his first words to her are, “Greetings, favored one! (notice the exclamation point) The Lord is with you.” After the hello, Gabriel presents to Mary two profound truths: Favored one and the Lord is with you. Mary is addressed as a “favored one.” The Greek word used literally means to endow with grace. Gabriel’s first word is a blessing. Mary is a recipient of God’s grace. Grace would be the theme of Mary’s story. God had chosen her and, out of God’s love, blessed her. God’s grace is a gift. It cannot be earned by anything we do. God freely offers it to us. The only other use of the word “favored” is found in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians where he writes, “To the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:6) Each of us, like Mary, are living lives that have been offered God’s grace. God knows that we cannot make it on our own. Whether we are facing a crisis or the need for a decision to be made about our lives, God’s grace is available to us. Whenever we seek to discern God’s will for our lives, we begin with God’s grace. If we begin with God, then we can trust that God will show us the way.
Not only is Mary favored by God, but Gabriel promises to her that God is with her. Mary would not journey alone as she went forward after this encounter. God would be present with her from that moment on. Likewise, in our lives, we can trust that God goes with us. The meaning of the name given to Jesus of Immanuel tells us just this: “God with us.” We do not live our lives apart from God’s presence. We are never separated from God’s love. Regardless of where we are on life’s journey, God will be present with us. The infant Jesus would only lie in a manger for a brief time. But for everyone who trusts in God’s promise, our hearts and our lives become his permanent dwelling. Jesus makes his home in us.
Mary still had a lot of questions for her angelic visitor, as the story will show. God’s grace would show her the way through all her doubts and fears. We, too, can be led by God’s grace as we place our faith in Jesus. God’s grace will always show us the way.
Prayer: Thank you, God, for entering our lives and offering us your grace. Your favor rests upon us, and we are truly blessed. Amen