And [the angel Gabriel] came to [Mary] and said, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. —Luke 1:28-29

In this story we meet Mary, the mother of Jesus, for the first time in Luke's Gospel, and we are surprised to see much of ourselves in her. Mary is often put on a pedestal, someone thought to be so holy and pure as to be out of reach to us mortals. But though she is a saint—as we are—she is also like us, someone who could become "greatly troubled."

She's so "greatly troubled" here that the angel asks her to sit down and catch her breath. "Fear not," he says in an attempt to comfort here. "You really are favored by God!" As if that would help: it's actually Gabriel's message of favor—not the presence of an angel!—that concerns her and makes her wonder "what sort of greeting this might be."

Then again, it's not every day that one gets a cold call from a divine messenger. But we do get them from time to time, don't we? Those moments in a sermon or conversation, during a quiet walk in the woods or in prayer, when Someone taps us on the shoulder and says, "Hey you. Yeah you—favored one!" It scares the heebie jeebies out of us. "Me? Favored? By God? You must have mistaken me for someone holy."

But no matter how many times—or in what form—we hear, "Hey, you. Yeah you—favored one!" we have the hardest time believing we're the ones being addressed. For some, it's because their relationship with God is grounded in fear—it's more about obedience to a sovereign, doing what's right, or signing up for afterlife insurance. For others, it's because faith is overshadowed ...

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SoulWork
In "SoulWork," Mark Galli brings news, Christian theology, and spiritual direction together to explore what it means to be formed spiritually in the image of Jesus Christ.
Mark Galli
Mark Galli is Editor of Christianity Today in Carol Stream, Illinois.
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