Today some call her “the holy mother” and revere her as a saint. But 2000 years ago, Mary saw herself as only an ordinary, faceless, fame-less, Israelite girl.
- She came from Nazareth (a town of which people said, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?!)
- Nazareth was in the region of Galilee (an area of which people said, “No one special has ever come from Galilee)
- She was pledged to be married (probably a marriage that she had no say in)
- And she was a young teenager
What did Mary think of herself? We can infer her self-image from what went on her mind when God’s angel greeted her with the words, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
She was greatly troubled and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. Psychologists today would describe Mary’s response as inner dissonance—the feeling that something is not quite right, but she couldn’t put her finger on exactly what was wrong. The phrase greatly troubled is a single Greek word which means agitated and perplexed by doubts.
In short: the way the angel greeted Mary didn’t jive with the way Mary saw herself.
Mary, like many of us still today, didn’t think she was worthy of God’s attention, let alone His special blessings.
But the word the angel used when he said she was highly favored is a wonderful word! It’s root word is grace, and it only appears twice in the New Testament. This word means God’s grace which is constantly reaching out to us, even when we’re unaware of it. Look at the other passage where this word is used—
God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace He has poured out on us who belong to His dear Son. (Ephesians 1:5-6, NLT)
How amazing! God wants to adopt you… it’s something that brings Him great pleasure, so He constantly pours out the blessing of His grace on us!!
Are you worthy of God’s favor? YES!! Not because you did anything to earn it, but because Jesus paid the price for you on the Cross.
Now you need to respond the way Mary did. The angel told Mary to “Fear Not!” The verb tense implies that Mary needed to stop fretting about her (un)worthiness, and simply accept the grace that God was extending to her. In other words, she needed to see herself as God saw her.
Mary’s response should be our response: “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”
Join me next Sunday as we look at the third “Fear Not!” statement in the Christmas story (a recap of the first “Fear Not” message can be found by clicking here).