The Favor of God

Life Worship Notes—December 26, 2013 

“And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.’” Luke 1:46-48a

This passage from Luke is the beginning of one of the most widely read scripture passages during the Christmas season. The complete refrain (Luke 1:46-55) is referred to as Mary’s Song of Praise, or The Magnificat. It is Mary’s response to learning she is carrying the Son of God, the Messiah. Emmanuel, meaning God is with us, will be born through Mary. Being young, unmarried, and pregnant would not be good news to most women of her era. However, the angel Gabriel assured Mary she had been chosen to birth God’s son. The news fills her with joy, in spite of the challenges it will present. She believes it is a sign of God’s favor.

Mary’s place in history was secured by being the earthly mother of Jesus. Even so, God’s favor falls on all of us still today. When God chose to take on human flesh and walk among us, that adventure began as a baby, born of a human mother. It was a physical birth, the same way the rest of us began our earthly journeys. While Jesus’ birth through Mary was physical, Jesus’ birth in us is spiritual. God reaches out to us in Spirit; and when we reach back, Christ is born in us. We reach back to God by accepting the gift of Jesus and dedicating our life to his work and purposes. Emmanuel, the true gift of Christmas, is God with us. Once God is with us, God can work in and through us. The gift of Emmanuel is given freely to all who will accept it. However, those of us who receive must then decide what to do with the gift. If we hide it away, only to be brought out on special occasions, it will wither and fail to thrive. God’s holy presence in us is to be shared and allowed to become an inseparable part of our daily experience. One of the most effective ways God works on earth is through the hands and hearts of God’s people. God’s favor is given to us, and we respond to God’s favor by passing the blessings it brings on to others.

The essence of Emmanuel is love. Love manifests in relationships. Through the birth of Jesus, God chose to be in relationship, physically, with the people of the time. Today, God chooses to be in relationship with us spiritually. God reaches to us; but until we reach back and accept God’s invitation, there can be no relationship. At that point, we begin to know, recognize, and respond to God’s favor. Otherwise, God’s favor is like a radio wave being transmitted, but not received. God speaks, but is not heard.

Come home to church this Sunday. Receive the favor of God by receiving and following Jesus.

Greg Hildenbrand

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