In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” – Luke 1:26-28
We are jumping from the Old Testament to the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament now. In the previous 25 verses, the birth of John the Baptist has been foretold, John’s father Zechariah has been struck mute for not believing the angel telling him about the impending birth of his son, and John’s mother Elizabeth has conceived him, taking away the disgrace she had endured among her community for being barren.
Are you feeling caught up now? Good! Moving on…
An angel comes to an unmarried teenage girl in Nazareth who is engaged to a much older man. It is probably a good thing that the angel’s first words to her are that she is favored and that the Lord is with her because I cannot imagine the terror she would be feeling at a heavenly visitor suddenly appearing to her. The message he (the angel) is bringing is one that could potentially threaten her life or undo the marriage arrangement that was supposed to be happening because it was a huge stain on the family if a woman was found to be pregnant out of wedlock.
Ignoring the societal realities at play here, we are about to receive some amazing news: God is coming to dwell with us! God is putting on skin (paraphrasing the words of the Lutheran pastor, author, and speaker Nadia Bolz-Weber) and coming to live with us! The amazing part? God isn’t just descending on earth with a huge light show and a massive choir of angels visible everywhere. Instead, God is coming in the womb of a teenage girl in the backwaters of some obscure Roman territory. What does it say about God that the “favored one” is someone who has some of the least power on earth?
Thank you, God, for turning the expected order of things on its head and sending Jesus to come to one without status or prestige. Amen.