Receiving the Gift of God

Robert MorrisBy Robert Morris5 Minutes

Have you ever had a news bombshell dropped on you – utterly out of the blue? Most of us have. But no person in the history of the world has ever received news more unexpectedly or mindblowing than the message Mary heard from a heavenly herald one evening:

Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end (Luke 1:30-33).

Mary is no learned rabbi, but the implications of these words are quite clear to her, just as they would have been to any devout Jewish person of that day.

God’s messenger has just told her that she’s going to give birth to the long-awaited Redeemer-Deliverer of Israel. She recognizes the words “Son of the Highest” as referring to the Messiah. She recognizes the phrases “of His kingdom there will be no end” and “upon the throne of His father David” as both coming from Isaiah’s prophecy of the future Messiah – the very prophecy that says the Messiah will emerge in “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Isaiah 9:1).

What a message for a young girl to absorb and process. But there’s something else I want you to notice about this angelic message. For a second time in the early moments of this encounter, the angel declares that Mary has “found favor with God.” We think we know what this word means.

Most of us have a concept of favor that involves someone in authority recognizing our good qualities. In other words, we think favor is a reward that we, in some way, have earned or merited. Here’s how we tend to think of it: When you’re applying for a job and your resume is one of fifty sitting in a stack on the decision maker’s desk, you hope that your resume will grab their attention because you know you’re a great fit for the position, and you’ll do a great job. The challenge is getting the opportunity to demonstrate that. So, you pray for favor.

Make no mistake about it, there is a kind of blessing from Heaven that does cause you to stand out in a crowd. The blessing of the Lord causes people to view you favorably, but that’s not the meaning of the word Gabriel spoke to Mary.

Luke wrote in Greek – an extremely precise language – and the English word translated as “favor” in Luke 1:30 is the Greek word charis. This word appears 136 times in the New Testament, which tells us it’s a very important concept in the New Covenant God established through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Yet only six times is it translated as “favor.”

The other 130 times charis is translated “grace.” This is because deeply rooted in the meaning of charis is the concept of a gift – something wonderful that is utterly free and unearned. It’s no accident the average Christian on the street will tell you that the official definition of grace is “unmerited favor.”

The story of Christmas is the story of the greatest gift ever given. And on this night, Mary has been informed that she has been chosen to literally deliver that gift to the world. Highly favored indeed.

Excerpted from Seven Words of Christmas, used by permission of FaithWords ©2020.