Advent Devotion for December 24
Candle Lighter says: “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
Response: “for you have found favor with God!”
SCRIPTURE: Luke 1:26-38
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. 37 For the word of God will never fail.”
38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.
SOME THOUGHTS: After some 400 years of silence from God in terms of revelations to prophets, there had been a little stirring. The news was that the old priestly couple became pregnant, after barrenness their entire lives! Something mysterious had happened in the Temple, because old Zechariah couldn’t talk. There was a game of charades when he came out of the Temple (1:22!) and they knew that something unusual had happened. Elizabeth went out of social circulation for several months. About this time the angel Gabriel made another unique visit to the young girl, Mary, as described in your reading. You know the story well. Put yourself in Mary’s place. Something strange is going on with your old relative Elizabeth. You are glad for her, but this whole thing is a little odd, to say the least! Now an angel just shows up when you are by yourself, minding your own business. You are engaged (abiding by the covenant of marriage in this culture) to Joseph. The Bible says that Mary was “confused and disturbed.” My guess is that that was is an understatement! Fear would be normal. In spite of what we might think, the appearance of angels in the Bible was very, very rare. Then there is the wonderful phrase, “you have found favor with God.” Can you imagine how humbling that would be? God finds favor with me? What do you think that meant? God, the Father, said something similar at Jesus’ baptism. “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.” It would seem that finding favor has to do with an obedient heart to the will of God. After telling Mary she had favor in God’s eyes, he went right ahead with the details of the message. You are going to give birth to the Son of the Most High God. I’m surprised she didn’t pass out or pinch herself to make sure she was conscious and not dreaming! I think we have a little clue as to Mary’s maturity because she didn’t doubt Gabriel’s words for a moment and asked a very logical question. “How’s this going to happen? I haven’t slept with anyone.” Again, the angel didn’t mince words. The Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you and you will conceive a perfectly holy baby boy. This child will be born without sin. He will be the Son of God, not of Joseph. Since you are dealing with God, nothing is impossible. I’m inclined to think that maybe Mary didn’t know about Elizabeth’s pregnancy based on Gabriel’s comments in verse thirty-six. That may have been said to give Mary a little more confidence. At any rate, Mary’s response gives further insight into why she was favored by God. Unlike Zechariah’s reluctance to believe Gabriel when learning of his son, John; Mary simply said, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you said about me come true.” She had complete faith and trust in God. If an angel came to you with a message from God, what would he have to say about God’s view of you? Mary is a model.
PRAYER: Lord God, our Father in heaven, on this night of nights, when a baby’s cry pierced the universe, a Father’s heart was touched as reclamation and restoration moved to planet Earth. We have but a faint inkling of the magnitude of your grace and love. Our words of gratitude seem so thin. Singing them helps a little bit. The condescension involved is more than we can imagine. The Son of God humbled himself and took the form of a human being born in the flesh like billions of other humans. I am dumbfounded, though profoundly grateful, that you had to learn to crawl, walk, and talk just like we do. As we remember your arrival this night. We thank you by endeavoring to be obedient and walk in the path you have prepared for us. Receive our worship through Jesus Christ our Lord, who became a child that we might become the children of God. Amen.