Summary: Gabriel’s Message to Mary Is God’s Message for You
“Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Ah. Those words just don’t have the same ring in English as they do in Aramaic. That was the language I spoke when I delivered that greeting for the first time 2,000 years ago. I am the angel, Gabriel. I am the one who was given the wonderful task of telling Mary of Nazareth that she was going to have a baby - and not just any baby mind you. She gave birth to the Son of God, the world’s savior. I want to tell you about my visit to Nazareth because the message I gave to Mary is God’s message for you. Yes, God sends you his greetings, for you, who sit in these pews, are highly favored too!
“Me? Highly favored by God?” Is that what you’re thinking? Good, because that’s also what Mary thought. If Mary would have been like one of those Pharisees that gave Jesus such a hard time, she would have said something like: “It’s about time, Gabriel. I was wondering when you were going to show up to acknowledge all the good I’ve done. What does God need me to do for him now?” But that wasn’t Mary’s attitude. Instead she was troubled at my appearance.
Think of how you feel when the school principal says that he wants to have a word with you. Don’t the butterflies start fluttering about your stomach as you wonder what you could be in trouble for? Even if the principal insists he’s not going to scold you for anything, you’re still apprehensive of taking a seat in his office because deep down inside you know that there are plenty of things you have done or failed to do that he could be angry with you about. That’s why I had to tell Mary to stop being afraid. She wasn’t in trouble. On the contrary, she had found favor with God (Luke 1:30)!
I suppose this is what has led many to believe that Mary was holier than others and that this is why God chose her to be the mother of Jesus. But what I really said to her was “You have found grace from God.” Mary didn’t need to be afraid because, even though as a sinner she deserved to have me unleash God’s righteous anger on her like one of your police officers firing his Taser at an unruly criminal, God was going to give Mary the opposite of what she deserved: instead of punishment, his love and forgiveness. That’s grace.
And so now you may be wondering, “So what made Mary so special?” Not Mary! She was rather ordinary - a teenager who lived in an out-of-the-way town in a “have-not” province. And while I know what Mary looked like, you don’t. Don’t you find that interesting? The Holy Spirit didn’t think it important to record what she was wearing or how her hair looked when I appeared to her. You don’t know if she was slim or whether she was good at sports or played an instrument. You don’t know any of those things because they’re not what makes a person important. What makes you important is what God thinks of you. And in God’s eyes Mary was extraordinary because he had given her his grace.
And now the same is true for you. You too are “highly favored” because you have received grace from God. How can you be certain of this? Well this is what my visit to Nazareth was all about. I had come to tell Mary that she was going to give birth to the Son of God. That in itself is amazing! You might think it difficult to jam all your post-Christmas wrapping paper into the recycling bin but that’s nothing compared to what God accomplished. The Son of God “shrank” to fit in Mary’s womb which was about the size of a fist. But God wasn’t performing some sort of circus act to entertain the world. The Son of God became man so that he could one day fit on the cross where he would pay for your sins. And he has done just that. Because of Jesus you are highly favored by God. How can you not be when he invested so much to make you his child again?
OK. But what does this all mean, practically speaking? It means this. The next time you see an angel it will probably be the Angel of Death. Yet think of how my message to Mary will still be appropriate for you then: “You are highly favored, you have received grace. Don’t be afraid. The Lord is with you.” Death my scare others but to you it’s simply the womb through which you must pass before you take on godly glory, much like Mary’s womb was the channel through which the Son of God had to pass to take on humanity.