Luke 1:28-29 “The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.”
God has given Mary an absolutely unique role among all the people who ever lived. Only one person could give birth to the Savior of the world and be his mother. This privilege is certainly a part of what the angel means when he says, “…you who are highly favored.”
But as far as God’s love and esteem for us are concerned, we have more in common with Mary than we have distinctions. “Highly favored” comes from the same Greek root which in other contexts gets translated “grace.” As with grace, there is implication here of something unmerited, undeserved, unearned. Mary was a sinner who did not deserve to have Jesus as her own son. God gave him to her as a gift. We are sinners who did not deserve to receive Jesus as our Savior. God gave him to us as a gift.
Have we lived with God’s high favor and grace for so long that we take it for granted, or worse yet, we begin to see it as an entitlement? Have we lost our sense of wonder at it because life under the grace of God is all we really remember? Maybe, like Mary, we don’t have a very interesting tale of darkness and sin to tell about in our past. We are not like David who was an adulterer and murder, or Paul who persecuted the church. We are kind of run-of-the-mill, boring sinners. We didn’t find Jesus after a life of violence, or crime, or drugs. Our teen rebellion was never much more than a bad attitude. We are guilty of irritating our spouses, not of cheating on them. We haven’t sold out our integrity in exchange for career success.
I have on my desk a book of prayers and devotions for pastors, and one of the prayers I return to from time to time asks God to trouble me. Lord, trouble me with the smallness of my work. Trouble me with my unholiness and my slowness to obey. Trouble me with the time I have wasted. Let me see my sin, even my boring, run-of-the-mill sin, for what it really is, not so that I will feel bad. Do it so that I can better appreciate the wonder of your grace and favor, that for me–even for me– you were willing to give up your only Son.