Summary: Continuing Christmas series. Looks at Mary as a proper response to what would ordinarily terrify us.
Mary didn’t just suddenly appear on the earth. She was born, just like any other baby girl. She wasn’t from a thriving center of commerce and wealth. She was from a little town in the region of Galilee - a town where someone asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
We know something indeed good came out of Nazareth! The Law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. The journey of Jesus to earth was a mission of grace - God’s amazing grace.
It was first a grace given to Mary, beginning with a visit from an angel who appeared to her and said,
Luke 1:28 “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
1. Go ahead and be shocked that God has “graced” you!
God’s grace is perplexing.
We (that is mankind right up to this present day) get this so backwards. We create God. We start with mankind as the ultimate reality, and from there build a god in our own image. Since He’s a god, we’ll accord him lots of power, and abilities, so that he can do things that we like and want him to do - kind of like Santa Claus. But we’ll also have some flaws built into him, to help explain why things in life go wrong sometimes. We’ll limit his authority, so that he’s not too much of an imposition on our lifestyle. Let’s give him just enough of it to motivate us to be “good,” kind of like Santa Claus. And if we do mess up too much, he’ll overlook it. He’ll give us grace - just like Santa Claus. That way, neither we nor him will have to take our sin very seriously. We can just kind of laugh it off together.
When that’s the kind of god you believe in, amazing grace isn’t really that amazing. It’s just what you’d expect from someone who’s already a lot like you are and who doesn’t get too bent out of shape over your selfish choices. He’s just a bit nicer than everyone else…kind of like Santa Claus.
But that’s not the God of Scripture. That’s not God Almighty Who sent His messenger Gabriel to a young woman in Nazareth with the message that the whole world was about to be changed, and she would have an important part in it.
While we don’t have a lot of details about Mary given to us, what we are told about her is nothing outstanding really. Last week, we looked at the visit of the angel Gabriel to Zechariah as he served in the temple. Now, as Gabriel visits Mary, the same word is used to describe her first reaction - she’s “stirred up” inside - like a can of paint in the shaker at Menards. We also get to see that Mary is a thinker - observing things, and trying to understand what they all mean - pondering them. “Favored one? What makes me a receiver of God’s gift? Why is God with me?”
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Literally, it means “you have found grace with God.”
Grace, by its very definition, is a gift. It’s not something you earn, not something that you merit by your own goodness or achievement. In fact, it’s in spite of what you’ve earned. Mary had found grace with God.
We’re wrong to make more of Mary than Scripture makes of her. She’s presented to us as a very ordinary person who’s surprised by the idea that God would show His favor to her. That’s probably the character quality that Mary has that I admire the most: she knows who God is and who she is in light of His greatness.
A little later on in this chapter in Luke, we have her words as she breaks out in praise to God…
Luke 1:46-50 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
Ill - What if a great plague was engulfing Rockford - a terrible, fast-moving disease that gave little warning of its presence. You work for the Center for Disease Control, and you have been dispatched to go door-to-door in a particular neighborhood, telling everyone there that this horrible disease has arrived and they are certainly already infected. It will ultimately kill them. Can you imagine the uproar that would create across our city?
But there’s good news! A cure! All they need to do is show up at the CDC shelter down on the corner, and they can receive the cure for the disease free of charge, right there. It will work the same for every person. But they must go and get it. It will mean the difference between living and dying. That’s kind of the story of God’s grace.