Luke 1:28-30 “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. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.’”
“Greetings, you who are highly favored!” Not, “Greetings, you who are pure and sinless!” Not “Greetings you who are worthy in every way!” Not, “Greetings you who are finally getting what you deserve!” It is more like, “Greetings you who are receiving a special favor!” Behind the angel’s address of “highly favored” is the word we usually translate “grace.” It wasn’t so much a description of Mary’s personal character. It is more like: “Mary, you are the object of God’s grace. In spite of your sins and imperfections, God has forgiven and loves you.” That’s the way that God deals with his sinful people on earth, with the grace of his forgiveness and love.
That grace is further expressed with two promises. “The Lord is with you.” The Lord isn’t just pulling for you from a long way off up in heaven, cheering you on and hoping you do well. I appreciate that I have friends and family all around the country who wish me well. In the last few weeks I have been getting a lot of their annual cards and letters telling me so.
But that kind of moral support only goes so far. In his grace, “The Lord is with you.” He is at your side. He has rolled up his sleeves, and gotten his hands involved your life–being a help, making a difference, and, particularly where it comes to faith and salvation, getting the job done himself. Mary’s new insight into just how much that meant was just moments away.
Then the angel gave this assurance. “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.” One of the greatest consequences of finding God’s grace is the end of fear. You don’t have to be afraid. You don’t have to be afraid of guilt. You don’t have to be afraid of death. You don’t have to be afraid of hell. You don’t have to be afraid of anything. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” And if we have God’s grace, like Mary, then God is for us. Don’t be afraid.
The impressive thing about the angel’s greetings was not the woman who received them, but the promises of grace they contained. Let that same grace stand behind all the greetings of those who know what we celebrate this Christmas season.