"Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Greetings, you who are highly favored!" 
I considered starting my Christmas letter with that cheerful approach, but feared the receivers of my letter would get the wrong idea.  I wouldn't want them to assume I considered them highly favored since they were so fortunate to receive a Christmas letter from me.  Trust me, my Christmas letters are nothing special, and I sincerely doubt the recipients consider them a great joy!

Actually, I have a really hard time knowing what to write each year.  How do you begin to honestly capture what the past year has brought?  Frankly, it gets a little boring to discuss my part-time job as a bookkeeper and Steve's job as an accountant (jobs we've had for 20+ years...and honestly, how does one make accounting sound exciting?).  I could write about our "vacations," but I fear our friends would find it quite ho-hum to read about our weekend jaunts to NW Iowa to visit the kids and grandkids (a desirable destination for us because our precious ones are there; but let's face it, Northwest Iowa is not the most sought-after vacation spot in the world!).  I'm afraid it would be a bit of a downer to write of depression and bipolar disorder (both of which were a reality in our home this year); and I would find it impossible to capture the emotions I experienced as the Bible study I wrote was finally published and printed.  But those are all honest snapshots of our year.   Hmmm, maybe I do have an idea of what to write!  If you get my letter, these words might sound familiar :).

Anyway, back to the greeting at the top of the page.  "Greetings, you who are highly favored!  The Lord is with you."  This was the angel Gabriel's greeting to Mary when he shared with her his amazing news from heaven.  (If you are unfamiliar with this beautiful story, you can read it in Luke 1:26-38).

But, let's not leave this spirited greeting on the pages of Luke, dusting them off once a year at Advent.  These are God's words to us, too!  Words He speaks over us every minute of the day.  If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you, too, are highly favored!  Can you say this is your identity in Christ?  Or do you tend to believe that when God looks at you, He sees only your faults, your blunders, your sin.  Is it your belief that God will never call you "highly favored" until you get your act together?  Perhaps the sin we're most guilty of is neglecting God's grace...of turning our face away in disbelief and doubt when God shines His eyes on us and claims us as His highly favored.

I wonder if so much has been made of Mary's favorable attributes -- her virtue, her obedience, her unquestioning faith -- that we lose sight of the fact that God chose Mary because of His grace.  Yes, she was a loyal follower of Yahweh, but Mary was chosen to bear the Son of God because she was "the object of God's unmerited, graciously provided goodness."  "[Mary] did not ask for or seek this role in God's plans; God...simply stepped into her life and brought her into his service."  (Quotes taken from the IVP New Testament Commentary on Luke...see BibleGateway.com-commentaries).

God simply stepped into her life and brought her into his service.  And miracle of miracles -- He does the same with you and me.  I recently read this beautiful quote in the devotional, Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young (p. 331).  "The kingdom of God is not about earning and deserving, it's about believing and receiving."  This advent season, let's open our hearts and our hands and receive God's gift of grace, love, and favor.