One Comment to “The Favor of God”

  1. Donald McMahon
    December 23, 2018

    “The Favor of God” (Luke 1:26–56)(12.23.18)
    Luke 1:26–45 (NIV84)
    26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
    29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
    34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
    35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.”
    38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
    39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”
    The word of God for the people of God.
    Title: The Favor of God
    We live in a very uncertain world. I look at my family of origin and I see a lot of trials, tribulations, and tragedy. The same goes for my wife’s family. Surely, you have seen this in your own walk of life; or, in those near and dear to you. As a pastor, I often deal with the baggage that people have been carrying for years. The human being is a fragile creature fraught with faults, sin, and shortcomings. The human condition is the same as it has always been…except that 2000 years ago our Savior was born. In Jesus’ birth we have a hope for the future.
    How are we to understand this favor that the angel Gabriel announces? Mary is a young teenage Jewish girl. Purity and chastity are highly valued. This was no small thing to humbly take on this pregnancy. She would be subject to disgrace, rejection and gossip. Joseph could have divorced her. She might even have been stoned to death, according to the law.
    The nation of Israel was under Roman occupation. The taxes and oppression heightened hopes for a Messiah. When Caesar called for a census, Mary and Joseph had to go to Bethlehem. Was it favor to have to ride a donkey over rough terrain in your 9th month of pregnancy? There was no family to help with the delivery and no satisfactory place for lodging.
    Later, Mary and Joseph would have many other children. After their visit to Jerusalem when Jesus turned 12, we never hear about Joseph again. It is very likely that Mary was a widow with many children. And, there was tension between the other children and Jesus. From what little the scriptures tell us, we know that it wasn’t until after Jesus’ resurrection that they believed who He was.
    Can you imagine what it must have been like for Mary to witness Jesus’ trial and torture? Surely her heart was crushed as Jesus was whipped, beaten, and mocked. When Jesus suffered and struggled to carry that cross up Calvary, did Mary have a flashback to Gabriel’s promise of favor? The spikes secured Jesus to the cross and his body shuddered as the cross was dropped into the hole. The sky went dark; the earth shook; Jesus said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”
    Maybe it was after Jesus’ resurrection appearances that Mary might have felt the favor of God. Maybe it was after Jesus’ ascension back into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Almighty that Mary felt the favor of God. Maybe, but I don’t think so. I believe that being used for God’s purposes is actually the favor of God. This favor may be very challenging. In fact, it may only be possible with God. With God. With God, is the other end of the favor.
    Mary testifies that God is working in human history. We saw this in our responsive reading today. It is often called the Magnificat or Mary’s Song. It is Mary’s response to her Aunt Elizabeth’s declaration in verse 45, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”
    Mary’s soul glorifies the Lord and her spirit rejoices in God her Savior. Mighty and Holy God has worked in her life and throughout the generations. Rulers and the proud are brought down while the humble and needy are lifted up. In God’s mercy he has guided Israel and fulfilled the covenant promises to Abraham. Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise in Genesis 12:3 – “and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
    You see, this was God’s plan from the beginning of creation. The Apostle Peter tells us in 1 Peter and the Apostle John tells us in Revelation 13 that the Messiah, the Lamb of God would reconcile us to God the Father.
    Jesus confirms this promise near the start of his ministry. Luke 4:18–21 (NIV84)
    18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to preach good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
    to release the oppressed,
    19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
    20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
    When Jesus announced who he was, the people of Nazareth, his home town, rejected him. They doubted and rebuffed him. When he continued His pronouncement, the people were furious and wanted to throw him off a cliff. But he walked right through the crowd on his way.
    Mary was favored because she was an instrument of God’s kingdom purposes as she bore the Christ child into this world. Gabriel instructed, “You will name him Jesus, Savior. He will be great, the Son of God. He will fulfill the prophecy and rule on the throne of David over a kingdom without end.”
    We too are to “bear” the Lord Jesus in our lives. In 2 Corinthians 6:1–2 (NIV84) Paul tells us:
    As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 For he says,
    “In the time of my favor I heard you,
    and in the day of salvation I helped you.”
    I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
    WE are to bring holiness, peace, mercy, and comfort into this world as we allow Jesus to be incarnated within us. There are no promises of ease in this mission. It was not easy for Mary. It was not easy for Jesus. There is no doubt that this broken world needs to hear the Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us seek God’s favor by bringing Jesus to the people.
    A few weeks ago, Carol and I went to The Pilgrim Academy for a grandparent’s day celebration. Mr. Storr is the headmaster of the school. He went through the school as a child, several grades ahead of my daughter-in-law, Amy. Amy is the kindergarten teacher.
    Now, the children from both of their families go to Pilgrim. During Mr. Storr’s closing remarks, he talked about how precious all the kids at the school were. As he spoke about trying to provide a safe environment for the children, he got teary. There was no doubting his sincerity and love for the gift of all children.
    At the Pilgrim Academy, the Lord Jesus is central to everything they do. The children get an education in the Bible, but God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are part of the whole curriculum. Likewise, in their art, in their sports, and in their music. At the close of their annual Christmas concert, the choir of 42 young men and women surrounded the audience. Then they sang the benediction. First, Go Now in Peace with which we close each Tuesday night’s Communion Service right here; and then they sang:
    The Lord bless you and keep you.
    The Lord lift his countenance upon you,
    and give you peace,
    and give you peace.
    The Lord make his face to shine upon you,
    and be gracious,
    and be gracious;
    the Lord be gracious, gracious unto you.
    And then they finished with the seven-fold amen.

    Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen,
    Amen, Amen, Amen.
    In this Christmas season, remember that God entered human history as an infant. Jesus, our Savior, was born to Mary, for she had found favor with God. Let us also bring Jesus, the Son of the Most High, into our world. Let us proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
    John 3:16–17 (NIV84)
    16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
    Let us pray.


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