“It is no small thing to be highly favored by God. Especially when you are acutely aware of how preposterous this idea truly is.”^
To know that you are higly favored by God can be a life-changing moment. It is the kind of thing that changes your perspective on the world. I remember when I realized that I was highly favored by God. It didn’t come to me an instant. It was something I realized over time, and when it finally struck me, it changed my world.
When you realize that you are highly favored by God, nothing will ever be the same.
For me it came in junior high. The realization came to me when I realized that God loved me for me. It came to me when I knew that nothing I did or said could earn God’s love. When I knew that I was highly favored by God I learned that my missing homework assignment couldn’t change that. My disappointing test couldn’t change that. The things that I forgot, misplaced, or mishandled were not bigger than the steadfast love of God.
I can’t point to any one moment when I realized that I was highly favored by God, but it was no small thing, for it changed the way I saw myself, and it changed the way I saw the world.
In the Gospel of Luke we find Mary’s Song, also known as The Magnificat. It is Mary’s song of glory after meeting Elizabeth. Elizabeth, who was herself expecting a child whose conception was surrounded in mystery, was filled with the Holy Spirit and pronounced God’s blessing upon Mary and her child. Mary’s response:
“With all my heart I glorify the Lord!
In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.
He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant.
Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored
because the mighty one has done great things for me.
Holy is his name.
He shows mercy to everyone,
from one generation to the next,
who honors him as God.
He has shown strength with his arm.
He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
and lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty-handed.
He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
remembering his mercy,
just as he promised to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.”
Mary is highly favored by God, and it is no small thing. When she came to that realization, she sang praise to God. She realized that through her the promise of God would be fulfilled. She sings a song of praise and promise. It is praise to the God that has held her in favor. It is praise of the God that will turn the world upside down. It is a song of the promise of God that this has already been fulfilled in the baby she is carrying. God’s promise has not begun with the coming of Jesus. It has been fulfilled.
The gift of Jesus is from the God that scatters the proud and fills the hungry. This is a God that has turned the world upside down by becoming flesh. Everything would be different because of the coming child. For all of this, Mary sings out in praise and thanksgiving.
This however, was not Mary’s first reaction. A few verses earlier, when the angel told Mary what was coming, her response was marked with confusion, fear, and a quiet resolution. It took Elizabeth to stir in her the power of praise. There is a lot to be said of the bond of one mother to another. Elizabeth was a person that Mary knew and presumably respected. She was a relative – maybe a cousin, certainly older. I like to think of her as Mary’s aunt. Mary went to her Aunt’s house when she was in trouble. She found there a woman who loved her, who comforted her, and who made her feel empowered in a way that even the angel could not. I can imagine the remarkable bond between Elizabeth and Mary because I knew an aunt much like that.
In the midst of her trouble and fear Mary was given hope and grace through the words of someone that loved her. She realized that she was highly favored by God. Her response was a song that has lived through the ages as a testimony to God’s power. It is a song that reminds us that God used Mary to fulfill God’s promise. It is a song that we may rise and sing today. In the midst of your trouble and your fear, I want you to know, “You are highly favored by God.” Trust in God’s love, and your life will never be the same.
Know that God loves you and wants to use you to fulfill God’s promise. You are highly favored by God, let your heart glorify the Lord.
^I wish I remember where I read this. As I was doing some reading for my sermon this Sunday on the Magnificat, I read these words on someone else’s blog. They hit me with such a force that I didn’t even keep reading, but I built my sermon – and this blog – around this idea. This might not be a direct quote, but I didn’t feel right not attributing this to someone.