Imagine God asked you to recruit the mother of the Messiah. Two women have been shortlisted, and you have been asked to pick the best one.
The first woman has an impeccable pedigree being descended from Aaron the high priest; the other is a nobody from the no-name town of Nazareth.
The first one is married to a highly-regarded priest; the other is a teenager engaged to a tradesman.
The first one will go down in history as “righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord” (Luke 1:6); the second has done nothing worth writing about.
Which one is the more suitable candidate? I suspect many people would choose the first woman (her name was Elizabeth), but God chose the latter (Mary).
The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.” (Luke 1:30)
How did Mary find favor with God?
Who is favored by God?
I’ve been thinking about this question because it comes up in the discussion guide I just wrote for my latest script. Why did God choose Mary? What made her special?
Some say God chose Mary because “she must have been of high character.” In other words, Mary was a moral woman.
Others say Mary was pious, meaning she was blameless in terms of the law. Just like Elizabeth.
Then there are those who believe that Mary was sinless.
These explanations appeal to our religious sensibilities, but none of them is Biblical. If God was looking for a moral woman with the right pedigree and performance, he would have chosen Elizabeth. But he chose Mary, a young girl with little to commend her.
So here’s a question to discuss at the Christmas table: Why did Mary find favor with God? And here’s a follow-up question: How do we find favor with God?
Mary was not favored on account of anything she had done; she was favored because God was with her.
Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you. (Luke 1:28)
It’s the same with us.
You may be the youngest and the most insignificant believer in the kingdom, but you are as favored as Mary, because the Lord is with you (see Eph. 1:6).
I’m not joking.
Whether you lead a ministry of millions or live on a rock tending toadstools, if the Lord is with you, you are as favored as the mother of the Messiah.
But why Mary?
If God’s favor is unmerited, why did he pick Mary? Why not pick some other girl? Why not pick Elizabeth?
God could not just choose anyone. To fulfill the prophecies, the mother of the Messiah had to be a humble Jewish virgin living in Nazareth. She had to be ready to give birth in Bethlehem and then go live in Egypt for a while (see Is. 7:14, Mic. 5:2, Hos. 11:1, Matt, 2:23, 4:15). She had to be descended from the royal line of David or marry someone who was (Matt. 1:1, 20, Luke 1:32, 2:4).
At the time of Jesus’ birth, there were about half a million people living in Israel. Of this number, only a small proportion would have been unwed teenaged virgins. And of this group, only one woman ticked all the prophetic boxes. Her name was Mary.
But even that answer doesn’t quite capture why God chose Mary.
The God who sees the end from the beginning picked Mary long before those prophecies were given. God picked Mary because she had the one thing that matters when it comes to finding favor: faith.
And Mary said, “Behold the servant of the Lord; may it be done to me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38)
Highlight these words of Mary, for this is the language of faith. These are the words of someone who knows how to find the favor of God.
Faith attracts favor
God is good to all of us. His favor shines on everyone indiscriminately. But God only dwells with those who open the doors of their hearts. It is through faith that we find favor.
Cast your mind back to the beginning of the human story. God is in the Garden of Eden rebuking the serpent. He declares that the Seed of Eve will crush the devil’s head. As he is saying this he is scanning the future, looking for a mother. His gaze stretches past the law and the prophets and into the New Testament.
As the entirety of human history unfolds before him, God sees millions of suitable women with faith. So God decides to shorten the list.
“To demonstrate my glory I will choose a woman with no name from a town of no significance in a country of no consequence.”
So God whittles down his list and lands on Mary. In God’s eyes, she is the right person at the right time.
And so are you.
You are not going to give birth to a Messiah, but if you have faith, God will bear his fruit in your life. You don’t need to do a thing to make this happen. You don’t need to acquire a reputation and a track record. You don’t need to be blameless in the eyes of the law.
You just need to be like Mary, and believe.
A Mary Christmas
When God speaks into your life, you need to say, “may it be done to me according to your word.” God speaks, you obey, and your ordinary no-account life turns into Christmas.
Christmas is special, because God is with you. It is not the banquet or the tree that makes Christmas special. Christmas is special because it’s the day we remember God with us.
After Christmas the dirty dishes will be in the sink and the tree will be headed for the curbside, but God will still be with us. He’ll never leave us nor forsake us. And if you believe that – if you get up every morning with the same faithful attitude as Mary – you’ll continue to enjoy his favor on Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, and every other day.
Happy Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Day.
Image: “Maryiam” by Holly Schapker
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