December 21, 2016
Artwork: Greetings, favored One! by Micah Collins
Isaiah 28:9-22 · Revelation 21:9-21
1 Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to a king’s son.
2 May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice.
3 May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness.
4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the needy,
and crush the oppressor.
5 May he live while the sun endures,
and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
6 May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
like showers that water the earth.
7 In his days may righteousness flourish
and peace abound, until the moon is no more.
8 May he have dominion from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
9 May his foes bow down before him,
and his enemies lick the dust.
10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles
render him tribute,
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
11 May all kings fall down before him,
all nations give him service.
12 For he delivers the needy when they call,
the poor and those who have no helper.
13 He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life;
and precious is their blood in his sight.
15 Long may he live!
May gold of Sheba be given to him.
May prayer be made for him continually,
and blessings invoked for him all day long.
16 May there be abundance of grain in the land;
may it wave on the tops of the mountains;
may its fruit be like Lebanon;
and may people blossom in the cities
like the grass of the field.
17 May his name endure forever,
his fame continue as long as the sun.
May all nations be blessed in him;
may they pronounce him happy.
18 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous things.
19 Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may his glory fill the whole earth.
Amen and Amen.
20 The prayers of David son of Jesse are ended.
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Just after today’s passage in Luke 1:48, Mary refers to herself as “lowly.” I am struck by the fact that of all the places and people and ways God could have become incarnate in the world, he chose “lowly” Mary in the insignificant town of Nazareth in a way that, to all appearances, is scandalous. By conceiving Jesus while unmarried Mary risked being viewed as an adulterer and sexually impure.
God’s choice to enter the world this way sets the tone for the rest of Jesus’ ministry in Luke. Again and again in Luke, we see Jesus working with and through people, places, and appearances that our society would label lowly. And in doing so, Jesus risks disgrace. His glory and reputation are on the line and yet the Most High risks disgrace by engaging with what the world calls most low. He took these risks because he was committed to love and work through those the world calls lowly; and ultimately, to redeem the world of its false conceptions of what is high and what is low.
This reminds me of Martin Luther’s theology of the cross. For Luther, the theology of the cross was that Jesus did not just operate in beauty, power, and triumph. In fact, for the mass majority of his life Jesus embodied weakness, poverty, and loss. And Luke 1:26-38 should be a reminder to us that we are called to mimic God’s willingness to be viewed as lowly.
For us, Mary is a wonderful model of such willingness. In the world’s eyes she is lowly, and she knows it. Then by conceiving Jesus, Mary risks being seen as even lower. Her reputation as pure is one of the few things she has to her name and God asks her to put it at risk. Yet, she trusts God’s promises and, like Jesus, risks disgrace to accomplish his will.
For this reason, Mary threatens me. This young girl from Nazareth who was likely poor and illiterate challenges me to disregard the world’s standards of status and reputation. She threatens me because I am tempted to try to hold faithfulness to God in one hand and worldly success in another. I want to be faithful to God but I want to do so in a way that least threatens my status. I want to be faithful to God as long as I don’t have to risk disgrace.
And yet, there is Mary. Calling all of us to take hold of God’s promises with both hands. There is Mary, calling us to have the courage to risk disgrace and say to God, “let it be with me according to your word.”
Pray these prayers
“Here am I, your servant, oh Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
“Holy Spirit upon me; let the power of the Most High overshadow me.”