Summary: God’s favour means He uses the ordinary, involves adversity, requires obedience, gives us purpose, and provides hope.
We’ve all done someone a favour. And we’ve all asked for favours. We all have favourite foods, music, places to visit, etc. We talk about favourable weather and favourable circumstances. To use a negative example, some parents play favourites with their children. When we use these words—favour, favourable, favourite—we usually mean that there is something special about what it is that we favour.
Luke’s Gospel uses these words—favour, favoured, favourably—a number of times. How we use the word is not necessarily the same way that the Bible uses the word.
Point One: God’s favour enlists the ordinary and insignificant
Where’s Nerepis?!? Near Grand Bay? And where’s Nazareth?!? Oh yeah, in Galilee! Unless you were from Palestine, you wouldn’t know anything about Nazareth—it was an insignificant village.
Mary was a young virgin from an insignificant village. When we look at Mary and Joseph “nothing about their circumstances would have led anyone to suspect the role they would play in God’s plan.”
Mary had a unique and unrepeatable role to play in God’s plan of salvation—to conceive in a miraculous fashion the child who would be the Son of God—but that doesn’t mean she was special in advance of God using her.
God gives us significance by using us; He doesn’t use us because we are already significant.
So this is my first point: God’s favour enlists the ordinary and insignificant. This means that God can and does enlist each one of us. He wants to use each of us.
Point Two: God’s favour includes adversity
Now Mary was chosen and favoured, yes, but what a strange blessing! She got pregnant before consummating her marriage with Joseph—in Jewish culture she could have been stoned for adultery (assuming they didn’t believe in her whole angel story!).
She and Joseph had to travel a long way to Bethlehem to pay their taxes and fulfill the prophecy about where Jesus would be born—that would not have been a fun journey!
And she gave birth to Jesus in a barn where they kept cattle and sheep. Jesus had his first sleep in a feeding trough—these were not ideal conditions for delivering a baby!
When they brought Jesus to be circumcised, a man named Simeon came to them—told Mary that a “sword will pierce your own soul too.” She gave birth to a child out of wedlock that would eventually be executed as a criminal.
Mary was called by God and shown favour—but that doesn’t mean life was a blessing as we would often like it to be. She did not receive the blessings of wealth and comfort and social standing. “Acceptability, prosperity, and comfort have never been the essence of God’s blessing.”
And this is my second point: God’s favour involves adversity.
Following God’s call always means additional, not fewer, challenges. God’s blessing does not look like what the world says we should want.
Point Three: God’s favour requires obedience
So what does Mary do after Gabriel makes his announcement? What does Mary say? “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
Mary submitted to the word God had given her through Gabriel. She calls herself a servant of the Lord. Mary was obedient. And that is sometimes the hardest part; we want the favour, the blessing, without the obedience.
God’s favour cannot be experienced apart from obedience. Being in a right relationship with God means we are obedient—that we are striving for obedience. There can be no fellowship with the Lord apart from an obedient life.
Yes, Mary was chosen and favoured—but what would have happened had she chosen not to obey? But she did obey, and only then did she really know God’s favour and blessing.
To know God’s favour truly, we have to give ourselves in response to God’s call, just as Mary did.
“The glory of Christmas came about by the willingness of ordinary people to obey God’s claim on their lives.”
God had a claim on Mary’s life. Because she was special? No, because He was her Creator. She owed her very existence and life to God—this is true of every one of us. God has a claim on every one of us—because He is our Creator He also wants to be our Lord.
This is my third point: God’s favour requires obedience.
Point Four: God’s favour has a purpose
And of course, in calling Mary, in showing her favour, God had a purpose for her. Gabriel tells her clearly what her role is—and it is a unique, unrepeatable role: to give birth to Jesus, the Son of God.
But God has a purpose for each one of us. It might not be to become a pastor. And it certainly won’t be a role like Mary’s! But that doesn’t mean He doesn’t have a purpose for you.