I am continually struck by the verse in scriptures where Gabriel recounts God’s opinion of Mary. “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (For details, read Luke 1:26-38)
Sit with that. Mary has found favor with God; He KNOWS her; he can pick her out of a crowd. By her community’s standards Mary was nothing special. Ordinary really. Engaged to a carpenter from a community of hardworking families of humble means.
More unusual than the message is Mary’s response. “Cool!” (My translation.)
This is downright unheard of. Moses and Gideon, to name just two, protested God’s call. Isaiah and Jeremiah certainly didn’t fist pump with delight at their calling. Saul broke under the pressure; David’s performance was a mixed bag. And who can forget Solomon? The guy who asks only for wisdom and discernment finds early “success” only to end up with a killer sexual addiction.
Mary responded with humble gratitude. She was willing to be part of God’s plan for dispensing justice and mercy as she walked with God.
It wasn’t all good news. Mary’s virgin birth must have caused quite a stir in her village; poor Joseph was in an extremely awkward position. Mary and Joseph had to live as refugees for a while and, as Simeon so accurately predicted, this news would eventually be like a sword piercing the very soul of Mary.
Read Luke 1:46-55 for a detailed rendering of Mary’s heart song.
What do we make of this favored one of God who receives the honor of birthing Jesus but often lives in fear and consternation as a result of her calling? We call her experience human. Dramatic to be sure, but I think most people who follow God find the path difficult – a message that doesn’t fit our modern day Jesus marketing materials. I guess that’s why I struggle with sermons that tell us if we just love Jesus, every day will be sweeter than the day before. I prefer Mary’s model – she followed God’s call because she knew she could trust God not because it was going to provide her a great salary package and an awesome retirement plan. As we evaluate our spirituality, I’d encourage us to not get too discouraged if we find ourselves in challenging circumstances because of our inspired way of seeing and efforts to love God, others and self. That sounds about right.