“In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1.26-33
The angel Gabriel had a very full schedule during this time of year! He met with Joseph, Mary, the Shepherds, the Wisemen, and others. He was God’s messenger during this high and holy occasion. And yet, when he showed up, the first thing he had to do is tell people- “Do not be afraid.” What was it about the sudden appearance of the angel of the Lord that would strike fear in a person? We see this also at the resurrection of Jesus — the angel reassuring people, do not be afraid, this is a message from God!
Mary was no different. She is arguably one of the top stars of the Christmas story. Besides Jesus, who else played such a significant role as Mary? Here we find one of the first encounters in Luke of the Lord’s angel imparting to Mary the mission. And it all begins with “Greetings you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Now this shouldn’t upset Mary but it did. And so the angel Gabriel comforts her by saying, “Do not be afraid Mary, you have found favor with God.” Then he lays out the mission as it was given to him from God — the best news in history about the Messiah who will come to save the people from their sins.
As we know from Mary’s response later in this passage, she asks some basic questions but then concludes with her most famous “Magnificat” saying, “My soul magnifies the Lord and rejoices in God my Savior.”
Mary’s response is what matters. When asked to do the impossible (a virgin birth?!) for God — she not only says yes but rejoices that she might be used for God’s Kingdom in this remarkable way. I guess that’s why God chose Mary in the first place, he knew her heart and her love for him. He knew that when she was asked she would respond in a way that gave God glory.
I wonder what God is asking of us this Christmas season? Surely not to bear the Messiah – he’s already been born; but perhaps a special and significant task, be it not so grandiose. But what matters to God is people — and us loving people can make a difference. What also matters to God is loving him and advancing his Gospel message of hope, love, salvation and peace.
This day you and I have been given an opportunity, like Mary, to magnify the Lord. We can live as if God is real and is making a difference in our lives. We can come to him, worship him and bow down. We can be his messengers in a world desperately in need of his grace.
Will you respond like Mary when you hear his voice? When you read Scripture, talk to him in prayer, or sing songs of praise? Let today be a day of rejoicing, of loving and of magnifying the Lord by his grace and for his glory.
“O Lord, Christmas is fast approaching. The world is shouting out your praise! The world is awakened to your story. Even in pockets of darkness, your light is shining. Come now, Holy Spirit, have your way with us. Help us who know and love you reflect your glory. Help others see your light in us. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen