“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” These words spoken by the angel Gabriel to Mary so long ago have echoed throughout the centuries. They now speak to us.
For her part, Mary was called to give birth to and raise a son, and her life and the life of others would change in unimaginable ways for eternity. One might rightly wonder what she did to deserve such an honor – to play such an important part in this divine plan. Although Christians often debate this question, scripture doesn’t explicitly say that she in any way earned anything. Perhaps it isn’t worth arguing about. Mary was ultimately “favored”, chosen by God despite any real or imagined weaknesses. Like us, she was created and called. In response, she answered despite any initial fear, doubt or darkness within herself, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” She trusted that, indeed, nothing is impossible where God is concerned. In faith, protected and empowered by God’s Spirit, and in humble thanksgiving, Mary would seek to live out her vocation as best she could.
Our Orthodox brothers and sisters call Mary, Theotokos. This title is commonly translated from the Greek as “the one who gives birth to God” or more simply “God-bearer.” As we selected music for our Advent and Christmas services, I meditated upon an old, favorite carol of mine, The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came (ELW #265). It struck me once again how Gabriel’s greeting is in a way spoken to each of us who believe, for we are most favored as well. By grace through faith, the Lord is truly with us, and we have been chosen to bear Christ into the world as part of God’s plan.
Like Mary in scripture, we might at times prove afraid. We might sell ourselves and our God-given abilities short. We might even misunderstand Jesus’ roll and his plans. Yet despite any sin or failures on our part, or any challenges we face, Jesus promises the Spirit will dwell within us, protecting and empowering us to share in a miracle of new life. We are only asked to trust and respond – through loving God and others – as best we can. God will see to the miracles that will surely flow from there.
May the blessings of Christmas be with you now and always,
The above pastoral letter was originally published in Messiah Lutheran Church and School’s newsletter, The Messenger (December 2011-January 2012 edition). To view the entire issue of The Messenger or to see the full calendar of events, visit: http://www.mlcas.org
Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.
© 2011 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.