In the narrative of Gabriel’s annunciation to Mary that she would bear the Christ, we see a profoundly moving testimony to the grace of God, who reaches down to us in redemption.
The scene begins with a fundamental contrast from the preceding episode. Earlier in the chapter, we read how Gabriel appeared to Zechariah, a priest, in the temple in Jerusalem–the center of Israel’s worship and identity. But now we turn to Nazareth, a backwater town in Galilee, and to an ordinary Jewish peasant girl. No mention is made of any power, prestige, heritage, wealth, or position that would set Mary apart as worthy in the world’s eyes. As the story proceeds, we see in her a humble faith and loyal submission to God–but even that is not described as a reason for this supreme honor bestowed upon her. God’s grace, His unearned favor, stands out in sharpest relief.
That is the first message Gabriel declares: “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” (Lk. 1:28, ESV). The message of God’s favor is quickly repeated (v.30). God’s favor upon Mary is realized in her selection to bear the Christ, the Son of God. By the power of the Holy Spirit, God the Son became man in the womb of the virgin Mary; an almost incomprehensible honor has been given her. God has reached down in grace, and shown the marvelous riches of His favor.
At Christmastime, we likewise rejoice in the wonder of God’s favor. God’s favor to Mary was His favor to us as well, for her child is the Savior of mankind, of all those who turn to Him in faith. God has reached down to all of us–in our little insignificance, in our lostness and sin, in our frailty and folly, in our weakness and wickedness–God has reached down to bring us life and hope and peace. God has sent His light into our dark world. God has come to us, to bring us home to Him.
God has favored us.