God’s Strange Favor

Dec. 4, 2012


When the angel came to Mary, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!” She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. – Luke 1:28-29

Mary: the favored one. Not usually the first word that comes to mind when I think of Mary. Here’s a young girl that will potentially lose everything because of God’s favor upon her. This is how God often works.

Thanksgiving week, I traveled with my friend, Kristin, to Argentina. We spent a few days in the countryside. One city was called Chacobocu, a city of about 40,000 people a couple hours west of Buenos Aires. While there, we spent a chunk of a day at a foundation, what we would call an orphanage. At the time, 29 kids from the ages of five months to about 16-years-old were waiting for a more permanent living situation. Some kids had no families. Some parents, like one boy about 2-years-old, had been brought to the foundation because his parents lived at a dump and did not want him living there. Some kids have siblings and the foundation tries to place them together, which is terribly difficult.

In the afternoon, we spent a few hours doing crafts with the kids: designing turkeys, making necklaces and decorating Christmas crafts. Simply and easy to do, we were surprised how much the kids loved doing these simple things. Crafting was not normal for them. The kids would make the same craft over and over, just as excited with the sixth necklace as they were with the first necklace.

One 16-year-old girl was initially not too interested. But she warmed up and by the end of the time, wanted her picture taken with her projects. We learned this teenager had recently been brought to the foundation and was having a difficult time fitting in. My guess is she wanted to be somewhere else than the foundation.

Earlier that day, we visited a private school. The sixth grade girls wanted to speak English with us. They were curious about American music, movies and entertainment. One girl shared how her sister was attending Yale. I could not help but contrast the difference between the girls at the private school versus the misfit teen at the foundation.

At the end of the day, I wondered: if God was choosing a mother for the Messiah today, would God be more likely to pick the Yale college student or the teenage orphan? I think we’d be very surprised with God’s pick. I’m thinking it would not be our first pick.

God’s favor looks strangely different from our favor. God intentionally chooses the meek, the mild, the lost and the challenged. Rarely does God seek the wealthy, the person with status or the influential person. God chooses ordinary people for God’s favor so that everyone can feel welcomed. Now if I could only be as gracious and open.

Almighty God – Mary didn’t seek your favor and yet you chose her. We think, “If this is the kind of favor God dishes out, I’ll pass.” But this is exactly the type of favor you often extend: asking us to do the seemingly possible. Nudging us outside of our comfortable little boxes. Challenge us this Advent to let our boxes grow. May we find favor in your eyes not for our benefit, but purely for the glory of Your kingdom. Amen.

Blessings –


Life-Changing Decisions

Dec. 3, 2012


When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee, to a virgin who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David of David’s house. The virgins name was Mary. – Luke 1:26-27

Ever have a day that turned out differently than expected? Today was one of those days for me. I knew decisions related to my Dad’s health were foremost. And we made decisions that will affect both of my parents and our family. My Dad’s health care is moving into a different direction.

Was it any different for Mary the day Gabriel visited her? I cannot imagine that when the day began, Mary ever expected a messenger to show up as she went about her daily routine. The news the messenger dropped on Mary? One word: unbelievable. Jaw-dropping, I-think-I’m-dreaming caliber.

This one visit changed every day forward for Mary. Did she think of her life as “before the visit” and “after his visit?” I’m not sure. I’m confident Mary knew once she accepted the offer, her life would never, ever be the same.

When a 13- or 14-year-old engaged Hebrew girl became pregnant, the penalty was stiff: death by stoning. Even if this did not happen, most likely Mary’s finance would leave her. Her family would be disgraced. She had to reconcile that she would probably raise this child as a single Mom. Talk about heavy things, for a teenager. Yet Mary accepted Gabriel’s news.

Actually, the news Mary received changed not just her life; it changed the world forever.  We have all had decisions that have changed our lives: getting married, where to live, a change of careers amongst various others. When we have one of those days when we make life-changing decisions, let’s be inspired by Mary’s faithfulness to God. Remember her words: “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.”

Lord God, our lives are peppered days that turn out differently than expected. There are events and days that we label as “before” and “after.” Thank you for Mary’s model of how to graciously deal with these times in our lives. Amen.

Blessings –