This week our Advent story finds us right in the middle of Mary’s stunning revelation from the angel: she has found favor with God! What a wondrous thought! Don’t we all long for this?
Luke 1:28 describes Gabriel appearing to Mary with these life-altering words: “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” God didn’t choose Mary in this narrative because she was unique. Mary was unique because God had chosen her. There is no implied worthiness on her part but rather the gracious activity of God at work. She is proof of the timeless truth: God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called! God takes us as we are and uses us as He wills, for our good and for His glory.
We read next in Luke 1:29 that “Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.” Why was Mary troubled? She hadn’t heard any of the divine plan yet. We know from Scripture and history that Mary was very humble. Perhaps she doubted why the Lord would ever choose her or how He could ever use her life. She knew who she was, where she came from, and who her family was. Or perhaps she had some understanding of what it would mean to be highly favored and blessed of God. Perhaps she knew she would have to endure suffering if she said “yes” to God’s plan. Being loved and blessed by God wouldn’t spare her from the heartaches and tragedies of life.
Mary knew something that we are still learning more than 2,000 years later. There is a tremendous price to be paid by those who are highly favored of God. Every purpose has a price tag. The higher the purpose, the greater the price. There can never be favor without forfeiture: our will, comfort, plans…everything must be forfeited and totally surrendered to the Lord. If we want the favor of God, we have to forfeit. Surely Mary paid a price, but unquestionably she reaped a tremendous reward through her Son, Jesus. So it is with us and our ministry among Muslims. The greater the price, the greater the joyous reward.
In Luke 1:34 Mary asked the angel, “How will this be since I am a virgin?” Imagine this! She had just heard the words that would change the course of history, let alone her entire life. And Mary had only one question. Notice she never doubted that it would be, that it would come to pass. Her only concern was with how it would come to be since she knew that she could not have conceived yet. Again, Scripture affirms the miracle of Christ’s virgin birth. Muslims also believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, so we have a spring board from which to launch into some respectful and Truth-centered conversations.
Surely there could have been other questions about her pregnancy. What about her relationship with Joseph? Would he divorce her? Would he understand? What about her family and the entire Nazareth community? She could be stoned to death according to the Jewish law. In all of this, Mary did not question the call of God or where it would lead.
Luke 1:37 proclaims that “nothing is impossible with God.” God can do anything! He can cause a virgin to conceive; He can give a child to a barren woman in her old age; He can part the Red Sea; He can raise the dead; He can do anything! This is the basis of Mary’s great faith and obedience, believing that nothing is impossible with God. How we need this gentle reminder in the ministry ahead of us. Muslims can and will come to faith in Jesus because nothing is impossible with God!
Luke 1:38 shows Mary declaring: “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me according to Your Word.” This is perhaps the most courageous statement ever recorded in the Scriptures! What might God do in each of our lives if we really believed that He could do the impossible? If we had the courage and faith to accept His will, His plan, and His purpose no matter the cost? A world of opportunity awaits us…behind the veil and within the heart of every Muslim woman.