Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church; Message: Luke 1; Date: 23 December 2012

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Highly Favoured

 

An angel told Mary – a young woman – that she would become pregnant with the Son of God who would save people and reign. His kingdom would have no end:

 

Luke 1:32-33: 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, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.

 

The angel made sure that Mary also understood her own position in what God was planning to do. He said to her – Luke 1:28: “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.” Luke 1:30: “You have found favour with GodStraight after her encounter with the angel, she met Elizabeth – her cousin – who – under the influence of the Holy Spirit – burst out with a powerful greeting – Luke 1:42: “In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you above all other women! And blessed is the Fruit of your womb!’”

In this church, we are in the delightful position of having had many pregnancies over the last few years and there are more to come. How do you feel when God tells you that you have found favour with him and that you are pregnant with someone special whom God will use for his purposes? Can I ask the mothers here: “Have you had hopes of future glory – great destiny – when you were pregnant with your child? Did you want to know what God had planned for your son or daughter

Sometimes – especially when you are not a woman – we are pregnant in other ways: There are new plans – new dreams – new assignments in God – and we want to hear that God’s favour is on us and that we will accomplish what he is promising us. Are you pregnant for anything in 2013? What about reaching the city and 30,000 visitors with the Jesus Tent at Easterfest? What about a new level of loving God – shining with his light – wholly belonging to him?

Mary was promised the best and she responded accordingly. She sang a song with her heart full of joy:

 

Luke 1:46-56: My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.

His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.

 

Her song was almost immediately confirmed by another song – the song of a priest:

 

Luke 1:68-75: Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us—to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

 

As far as prophetic words go, Mary had reasons to be joyful. An angel, her cousin, the witness of the Spirit in her own heart, a prophetic priest – they all agreed: God’s favour was on her. She was more blessed than any other woman. Her son – yet small in her womb – was destined to rule and reign. He would bring salvation on earth – freedom from hate and enemies.

Now I want to keep this short. This is a simple lesson but important. Sometimes God gives us an amazing word – a prophecy – a promise – and he has done so for us in this church. God has plans for you and all of us together – and thus we have reasons to celebrate – but the more magnificent the callings of God are, the more they will cost us in sharing the struggle of overcoming evil with love.

God favoured Mary and made her pregnant by the Holy Spirit but it almost ruined her engagement to Joseph who suspected that she had been unfaithful with another man. Just imagine the stress between the two. Then, blessed Mary had to give birth in a stable which was substandard accommodation at the best of times. Joseph and Mary were poor and we can tell because they only had a poor person’s offering – two pigeons – to sacrifice for the birth of their son. While Jesus was still a toddler, blessed Mary and her family had to run for their lives. King Herod had heard about Mary’s son – a future king and rival – and was determined to kill him.

Then, the prophecy – the angel’s words – never quite came to pass as expected. Jesus was to be a king – on the same throne as his ancestor King David – but he never did anything before the age of about thirty. He never established a court or set up an army to deal with the Roman invaders who had occupied God’s land and country. Instead Jesus became a preacher and performed miracles and was so different from any previous faith expression that even his own family concluded – Mark 3:21: “He is out of his mindAnd they came to take him home.

Yet, Mary kept loving her boy and she did learn to trust her son Jesus and what was said about him but her favoured status – her blessedness – ended with even more tears and the intense pain of a mother who had to watch her son die a most gruesome death. Soldiers nailed Jesus to a cross and everyone watched him die. What sense did make the angel’s words now?

Do you have a word from God? Are you favoured? Is there a calling in this church? Are you part of this? Then, what do you expect? It will not be easy because God is always good for a few surprises – doing the unexpected – and God overcomes the evil in this world by love and the sacrifices of love. Jesus died for love. He took upon himself the sins of the world so that – if you only believe him – you will not have to suffer the punishment which he suffered on your behalf. He is calling you to himself from the cross. For this reason, he was born. Trust him and take up the cross of following him – loving a sinful world and overcoming evil with love.

When hardships come, we do not think that this is strange because we are no better than Mary who was told – when Jesus was only eight days old – Luke 1:35: “And a sword will pierce your own soul tooCan we accept the sword – the painful stabs in our heart – as we live out our high calling? When Paul was rescued from persecuting Christians (and killing them) and saw the glory of Jesus and heard his voice – when salvation came to him – he received his calling at the same time and heard what it would cost him:

 

Acts 9:15-16: But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

 

I finish on a positive note. If you are ready for the pain, you will see that God is right. You are highly favoured. Mary was there when Jesus died but she was also there when he rose from the grave after three days and she was there when he commissioned his disciples to preach repentance and forgiveness in his name to the entire world. She was there when Jesus – from heaven – seated at the right hand of God with authority and power – poured out the Holy Spirit on his disciples who then preached and three thousand people became Christians in one day. Mary – at the end of many years of pain – saw the breakthrough of salvation which would now be preached across the globe – like today in this church almost two thousand years after Mary saw Jesus die on a cross. Amazing! Isn’t it? She was a blessed woman and – this morning – you too are blessed and – if you are pregnant – so is the child in your womb. God has a calling for everyone and he has a calling for us together as a church. Expect some pain but also watch the blessing to unfold. Jesus did not disappoint. He never disappoints anyone. Amen.