Advent Devotions: To be so favored

Advent 2015. Design by Doug Puller/Bread for the World.

Editor’s note: This Advent season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals written by staff, alumni, and friends of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).  

By Rev. Dr. Scott Sullender            

Luke 1:26-28

“Greetings, Favored One!” Really? Was Mary all that favored?   If so, we all better watch out for “angels bearing gifts.”   She is about to be pregnant without a husband, to be homeless at the time of her child’s birth, and then exiled in Egypt. The birth of her son is to trigger the massacre of innocent children. When her son comes of age, he will reject his family, become a half-crazed prophet, a controversial and at times embarrassing figure to her, and worst of all, he will be arrested, and executed by the Romans between two common criminals.  

“Favored One?” Are you kidding me? But then again, there were precious moments: Jesus’ first words, his helpful attitude, his kind face, his wisdom that was beyond his years, his passion for righteousness, his magnetic personality, those he healed, those he blessed, those he empowered, and the power of his sermons, his courage in the face of suffering, his integrity… and this mysterious news that he is still alive and with us even years later, thus turning the angel’s announcement, “The Lord is with you,” into a promise, an eternal promise.

Mary, the favored one, will see it all, the good, the bad, and the ugly. She will stand at both his cradle and at his cross. No wonder that her first reaction to the angel’s announcement was to be “greatly troubled…at what sort of greeting this might be” (v. 29). Maybe she intuited what was coming.

We do not know how or where Mary’s earthly life came to an end. As she approached her own death, surely she reflected upon the journey that began with an angel long ago. As she did so, I suspect she might very well have agreed, all things considered, that she was the “Favored One.” She was the Blessed One.

May we all be so “Favored” this Advent Season.

Rev. Dr. Scott Sullender is a retired professor of pastoral counseling at San Francisco Theological Seminary.  

Related Resources