EL CAJON, Calif. (BP) — In Luke 1, nothing could have prepared Mary for Gabriel’s appearance or his startling news.
When the angel appeared to her, it must have seemed like a dream. But from the beginning, Mary understood that her surrender to God’s plan would bring hope to the world.
Gabriel’s first words were scripted from on high: “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” (Luke 1:28). While this message was spoken specifically to Mary, its words have application for us. Gabriel’s greeting points to the Gospel itself, heralded to our own souls. It’s a salutation of salvation.
First, when the angel said, “Rejoice!” Mary was receiving a message to bring joy to her heart, and to ours. We know the message was received clearly because Mary composed her own psalm of praise: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior…. He has done great things for me” (Luke 1:46-47,49).
The message of Christmas does the same for us. Whenever we think of God’s coming to live among us, a smile likely crosses our faces as well, and that’s why the words “joy” and “rejoice” occur so often in our Christmas carols!
‘Highly favored one’
Gabriel’s next words, “highly favored one,” could be translated: “You are one on whom grace has been bestowed.” There were thousands of women in Israel longing to be the mother of the Messiah. Yet Mary was chosen!
The Greek word translated “highly favored” is found only one other time — in Ephesians 1:6, where it is applied not just to Mary but to all believers: “His grace, by which He made us accepted in the beloved.”
Christmas tells us we’re recipients of God’s special grace; we are highly favored. We are given a pure and righteous life — the unmerited favor of God lavished on the world through the Word who became flesh and dwelled among us.
‘The Lord is with you’
The third phrase Mary heard was: “The Lord is with you.” Phrases like that occur throughout Scripture for God’s people (Exodus 33:14; Psalm 16:11; Psalm 23:4; Philippians 4:5), so we can claim Gabriel’s promise for ourselves as well.
Our Lord’s final words echoed the promise given to Mary years earlier, as Jesus said: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). This is the very meaning of Christmas, as reflected in one of our Lord’s nativity names: Emmanuel, which means “God with us.”
Remembering the presence of the Lord changes our entire vantage point in life. As you go through the day and face the burdens of each hour, offer prayers at a moment’s notice, and remember — the Lord is at hand. You can rejoice, highly favored one, for the Lord is with you.
‘Do not be afraid’
Initially, when Mary heard the angel’s words she was “troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting that was.” But Gabriel said, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus” (Luke 1:30-31).
Mary had some questions, not because she doubted but because she was overwhelmed by the news. But she accepted Gabriel’s explanations and replied, “Behold, the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.”
How quickly she accepted God’s will for her life! She didn’t ask for time to ponder the decision. She was already living a surrendered life. So she was ready to take the next step by faith and with hope.
Sometimes we don’t understand how God is directing us, and His ways seem mysterious. But in every situation, He has a plan for our lives, and our only response should be the hope-filled words: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to Your word.”