In this season, as many around the world focus their attention to the Nativity, I thought the following blog post (originally posted by my client here) would serve as a blessing. It’s a simple reminder that God is indeed “pleased” with us.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of “favor” lately. It started at the beginning of this month as the Christmas season got underway. I was reminded that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was called “favored” by the angel who visited her. I kept thinking, what does that mean exactly, “favored”? Did God like her better than others? What did she do to deserve this?
In this season, this “favor” theme has continued to occupy my thoughts. Our family is being blessed in a variety of ways, so much so that’s it’s causing me to ask, “What have we done to deserve these blessings?” And, “If we stop doing whatever it is we’re doing, will the blessings stop?” I wonder if Mary had the same kinds of thoughts.
I did a quick Google search on “why was Mary favored?” to see what those who write about such things think. Reading some of their thoughts was interesting. Like, “…she was the greatest of all women”. Or, “She was favored because of her chastity”. Or, “…because she said yes to God”. Or, because she was the “most worthy and spiritually talented of all his (God’s) spirit daughters…”. I must admit, after reading those blogs and articles, I still felt unsettled. My question still wasn’t answered. Was she really “favored” because of what she did? I mean, weren’t there were other chaste Jewish girls living in Israel at the time? Weren’t there other young, obedient, Torah following girls in Galilee? What made Mary so special?
I kept pursuing this question by going to the Gospel of Luke where the story of Mary’s encounter with Gabriel (the angel) is written. I did some digging on the word “favor” in verse 28 of chapter 1. There, Gabriel calls her “favored one”. I learned that the word “favor” there was the word “charitoo” in Greek. Some scholars say that Gabriel was probably using the Hebrew word “chanan” which means “grace”. We can see this Hebrew word being used over 100 times in the Old Testament. For example, in Genesis, it says “But Noah found favor (“chen”, which is the noun form of “chanan”) in the eyes of the LORD.” I like the King James Version better: “But Noah found ‘grace’ in the eyes of the LORD.” When I read it that way, it suddenly hit me that I found the answer to my question: Mary, Noah, and others didn’t do anything at all to merit or earn “favor” (or grace) at all. They simply found it. It didn’t come from what they did. It came from who God is: a loving Father who became a little baby, suffered and died so that we could be with Him. It came from a generous Father, who is constantly looking at His kids with a warm, loving smile, giving them all kinds of good things despite what they’ve done.
Finally, my question was answered. And I suddenly realized that I’ve been asking the wrong question. The question I’m now asking is, “Father, what can I do to thank you?”