By Patrick Badstibner
28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.
30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name 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 father David,
33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Luke 1: 46- 50
46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
Can there be any other reaction when one has encountered the amazing grace of God, than an overwhelming eruption of emotional joy and praise towards God?
If so, then why do we see so few eruptions? Why are the volcanoes of our hearts not erupting with gratuitous affections and instead are often silent? Have we not met this very same grace?
A Quiet Volcano
In truth, the volcano of emotions that reside in our hearts, are lying dormant. They’re silent and appear to betray that we have barely moved from life to death.
Yet, here on this first Christmas we see that when Mary was given the news of finding favor in God’s eyes her heart erupted in deep emotional cries, she couldn’t stay silent! Even the pre-born baby, John the Baptist who was still in Elizabeth’s stomach, jumped for joy when encountering the Lord. We see this same exuberant expression upon David when encountering the ark finally in 2 Samuel verse 6.
So, what’s missing in our lives? Haven’t we also encountered God’s glory and goodness? No longer must we wait for God’s presence to be brought into us, because we are now the, “Host of His presence”, with the Holy Spirit living inside of us. So, why are our hearts not grabbed by such news and our lives revealing our excitement over the fact that in His coming also came the promise that God would give us all things needed to live this life (Romans 8:32).
What Was The News
Was the news just that Mary was pregnant? Was the news just that a baby was coming? Why was it so significant that it caused such an eruption in Mary?
What made this news so inspiring for Mary? Maybe, she knew that it was news that HOPE was coming. Through her all of man would be given a second chance of living in a right relationship with God.
With that news came the HOPE that man would move from being alienated (Colossians 1:21) and an enemy of God’s (Romans 5:10) to a precious child with the privilege of calling God, ABBA Father (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6). News that would offer to man the HOPE of no longer having to fear the future, but instead man could live with the HOPE that they could indeed share a home with ABBA Father.
In that is found a deep tenderness that no man had ever encountered, a mercy that went way beyond man’s understanding and a love that awoke Mary’s heart. News that brought HOPE that man could know freedom from life as it was known.
A life that made all men weary from living under the bondage of sin, the hopelessness of finding significance, worth, value in things that could never bring it and HOPE of freedom from the effects of sin in life. It was HOPE that God’s law never leaves another paralyzed and crippled from its condemnation, it’s life robbing judgement, but now could be a clear blueprint of how life ought to be lived.
The angel spoke of a God who was not coming to Lord over his subjects as other god’s interactions were often described, but to be beneath, to not only bend a knee, but to spread out HIS arms, for in Christ came the fulfillment of Isaiah’s HOPE, in Isaiah 53.
Indeed, the news runs deeper, as it should when we consider all things gospel, which simply means good news. Man’s ultimate lover, man’s master, mankind’s King, Lord, the name that every tongue shall confess and every knee shall bow (Philippians 2:10-11) to, was coming not to condemn, to judge, to bring wrath, but to become helper, friend, bridegroom, but more importantly Saviour and rescuer.
This was what Paul meant when he said, “how can He not freely give us all things.” That was the news that caused Mary’s heart to erupt and should cause ours to as well. News that said that God so loved, that He determined to pay the cost in order to have YOU, ME and all those He brings near, In His Family. Now that’s good news that should bring a Reaction.
News That Brings A Reaction
With such great and wonderful news, why are we still struggling to believe that in the news of the coming of the One whose birthday we celebrate, next Friday is found not just gospel moreness, but AMAZING GRACE? A lack of belief that reveals itself in our continued desire to turn back to those self-made gods, constricted of our own hands, to find our needs for approval, acceptance and significance. Even greater it reveals itself in our lack of tenderness with those who are as broken as we are.
Why’s the grace that we’ve been given so freely not affecting and gushing out of us like it did with Mary? Has Christ disappeared? Has he left the room? Did he not come? Have we not been given great mercy as Mary declared. If our hearts are not erupting from encountering God’s glory… is there another issue that’s keeping such wonderful glorious knowledge from becoming a reality in our lives?
Perhaps the secret to why the volcano of emotions in our hearts remain dormant is found in what we see the angel saying and what we find Mary doing first. Gabriel tells Mary that she has found favor in God’s eyes. Why? Could Mary have ever done enough, been spiritually invested and practicing aggressively a form of righteousness, that would earn her such favor from God?
Aw, but then we must say that Mary was without sin and was indeed perfect (Matthew 5:48). This, though, would place such sentiments in contrast with Paul’s words in Romans 3:5 and John’s words in 1st John 1:8, which point out that no one is without sin and all have fallen short of God’s glory.
Why Favor Then
No, Mary found favor with God, because He chose to show favor upon her and Mary knew this. Thus, Mary was encountering God’s grace, because it brought Him pleasure and glory to do so (Ephesians 2:7-8).
This is why Mary says, “For he has looked upon me in my humble estate”, considering herself first, considering her sin and the great mercy and grace that God was showing her, brought an eruption within her, the welled up volcano of emotions exploded within her in worship and praise, that affected all those around.
Quite possibly the gratuitous affections that Jonathon Edwards speaks of, we see first here with Mary. Affections that are backed by evangelical humility, as an awareness of God’s glory heightens our own awareness of our humble state.
Perhaps this is where we find the difference between Mary and ourselves. AMAZING GRACE was no longer a head knowledge, but it was a heart’s reality with Mary. Why is it different with us? What keeps us from experiencing the same?
Why Not Us
Are we so busy trying to live self-righteous, trying to sell everyone on how well life is working out and not accepting the fact that it is not, that we are not experiencing the good news as a reality in our hearts. Are we too busy trying to be what we cannot be, that we aren’t accepting the full meaning of “the coming of the one who could be”?
Do we not realize that the record books of performance have been closed and as a result are still standing in line filling out applications for the job of chief performer? Are we continuing to place our hope of joy, our hope of being released from the weariness of life, our hope n dreams of knowing love and glory in the created, rather than the One who came? As a result, AMAZING GRACE is nothing more than head knowledge and not the HOPE of life that this season brings.
Perhaps, because our glance often starts “not upwards”, but more “inwards than outwards” is found the reason for why we aren’t accepting the truth that when the baby came, he brought great favor from God, that we miss seeing such favor, and don’t cry out how blessed we are.
Are we offering greater sacrifices, forgetting that when God came as an infant baby in the poorest of states, in the most disrespectful conditions, he made the greatest sacrifice, so that no other sacrifices ever need to be offered? How great a love it takes to leave the perfection of Heaven to come to the degradation of earth, no wonder David asked “what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them (Psalms 8:4)?” Or, that Paul would say “For Christ’s love compels us” (2 Corinthians 5:14).
This Christmas let’s begin with realizing that in the baby coming… in the most contemptuous of situations… we found favor. Favor, in spite of being found in a state of brokenness and selfish peril (Ephesians 2:1-3). Favor that has now marked us as sinless, not just sinless, but as having never sinned, in the eyes of the One who once found us as enemies, favor that enabled us to become that baby’s bridegroom, to become the blessed ones, so that all those around us are affected by the dormant volcanoes of our heart’s affections – erupting in worship! How great a LOVE we celebrate at Christmas in order that we might shout HOSANNA TO THE HIGHEST.