December 10, 2017
Today we are continuing with our series called Misfits of Christmas. The big idea for the series is that everyone involved in the Christmas story are misfits. If you had to choose people to bring Jesus into the world, you wouldn’t choose the people God did. But as we have seen over the last couple of weeks, God loves misfits, and that is good news for you and me. Because there are many times when we feel like misfits ourselves. In fact, we are all misfits. If God can use them, if he loves to use misfits, then there is hope for you and me that God can include us as well.
This morning we are going to look at Mary, the mother of Jesus. And so to start, I’d like you to think about this question: if you were to handpick the mother of Jesus, who would you choose? It is an interesting question isn’t it? Because think about it, this is the Son of God we are talking about coming as a baby. Whoever you choose is going to have the responsibility of taking care of the baby Jesus and raising him. So who would you choose? What kind of woman would you choose? What would be her background? Her education? What stage of life would she be in? What would be her financial background?
Maybe you’d choose the mom that always posts family pictures on social media. Her and her family always look happy and everything is well. The mother who has had 4 children already and still has her pre-baby body. She’s the fantastic soccer mom who seems to be able to do it all. She’s married and has a good relationship with her husband. They have plenty of money and are well off that way the Son of God would be taken care of. She’s had 4 children already so she’s a seasoned mother and knows what she’s doing.
If you were to pick someone like that, it’d make sense. That type of mother would deserve the honor and privilege of raising the Son of God. What about you? Do you think you would have deserved God to choose you? Let’s go ahead and look at the mother of Jesus. We are in Luke 1, and the first thing we are going to see is that Mary…
Mary is the misfit mother.
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
No one was expecting the mother of the Savior to come from Nazareth. One of the big reasons for that is because Nazareth is never mentioned in the Old Testament. None of the prophecies talk about Nazareth. Bethlehem yes, but not Nazareth. God doesn’t choose a woman from the big city. Someone near Jerusalem. No, instead he chooses a woman from a small tiny little town called Nazareth.
Nazareth was so small that it only had maybe a few hundred people there. It seems to have had only one well which means it couldn’t support a large population base. Everyone who lived in Nazareth knew everybody. If you want a good comparison, think Seward Junction. If you have talked to people who have lived in Liberty Hill for a while, they’ll tell you that the intersection at 183 and 29 isn’t an intersection, it’s a town called Seward Junction. That’s a pretty good comparison of Nazareth at the time of Jesus.
Not only was it small, but people actually looked down on Nazareth. In John 1:46, one of Jesus would be disciples named Nathanael said, “Nazareth? Can anything good come from Nazareth?” No one would have expected the mother of Jesus to be from there. The mother of Jesus coming from Nazareth? That seemed crazy.
Also, Mary was young. The culture of the time was that you married young. By late teens and early 20’s a woman would generally be married already. Here we see she is betrothed. The marriage license had been signed, but they hadn’t started living together yet as husband and wife. So a lot of theologians believe she was somewhere between 13-15 years old. Think about that. We don’t even trust 13-15 year olds to drive by themselves despite a seat belt and air bag, and here God chose a 13-15-year-old to be the mother of God himself.
Not only was she young but she wasn’t wealthy. She was a peasant girl who probably wore a simple well-worn dress and worn out sandals. She probably had dirty hands and dirty feet from the daily chores around the house. On top of all this, she was a virgin. She hadn’t had a child or raised a child yet. No experience as a mother.
Is this how you pictured Mary? Young. Dirty. Clothes worn out. From a small despised town. My guess is probably not. You probably picture her like the pictures show. Almost like a 1st century princess. If this is how Mary actually was, why don’t we ever picture her like that? Why do we picture her as clean, has life together, and almost princess like? I think it’s because of what the angel says to her…
28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid,Mary; you have found favor with God.
Mary was the favored misfit
Let me give you two examples, and decide which one you believe to be more favored by God.
Example 1: A person who is incompetent. Lazy worker. One who doesn’t take care of their hygiene. Offensive. Their children are all over the place. They are selfish and all their intentions revolve around them. They don’t donate their time or effort. There’s no routine in the family. Their language is foul. And they generally don’t live a life for Jesus.
Example 2: The person who is competent. The one who has good intentions. They actually take care of themselves with good hygiene. Their children are well behaved. They generally live a selfless life. They live a life for Jesus and are in church every Sunday. Their language is filled with grace and love and encouragement. Which one would deserve God’s favor more?
When we think of people who are favored, we think of people who deserved to be favored right. And generally what do those people look like? Someone who has their life together. Someone who is doing well financially. Someone who is clean, beautiful, fashionable dresser. We don’t picture someone who has their hair all over the place, with a chaotic life, worn out clothes, barely making ends meet. Why? Because we feel they haven’t done anything to deserve God’s favor.
And that attitude right there reveals a fatal flaw in all of us. It is what theologians call the “opinio legis”. That means the opinion of the law. It’s the belief that I can earn God’s favor. That there is something in me that God looks down and sees that makes me worthy of his favor. And though we know that no one can earn God’s love and forgiveness and his favor, we subtly find ourselves believing this. That if I clean myself up, if I’m favorable in the eyes of people, that I must be favorable in the eyes of God.
A friend of mine who is a pastor recently posted a Facebook video of him giving a devotion. He said a few weeks ago, he put in his one contact and as he did it just burned and burned. He quickly took it out and looked at it. There was nothing on it. It looked clean. But then he leaned in closer to the light and looked closer at the contact and he saw all these little fibers on there that were causing the burning. We can think we are pretty clean. We can look at others and think they are pretty clean. But God sees all the fibers of our sin. He sees it all. And no matter if you’re example 1 or your example 2 none of us deserve God’s favor. It doesn’t matter how good our lives look in our own eyes, we can’t get rid of those fibers of sin. And getting rid of the fibers of sin is the only way we can earn God’s favor. In fact, we see one of those fibers of sin when we think we deserve God’s favor more than someone else. That’s pride and judgmental thinking. If we need to get rid of the fibers of sin, then there’s nothing that we can do to ever earn God’s favor. There’s nothing we can do to make God want to choose us or favor us.
But here’s what we learn with Mary. Your background doesn’t matter. Your financial status doesn’t matter. Your qualifications don’t matter. Your actions don’t matter, who you are, what you’ve done or haven’t done. What you wear or look like doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you have life together or not. None of this matters because none of that has anything to do with God’s favor toward you. He favors you just because he wants to favor you. Mary didn’t do anything to earn God’s favor, and neither have we. God just wants to favor us.
We are all favored misfits.
The Greek word for “favor” is “charis.” Charis means favor or grace. Undeserved love. Unmerited love. Mary was saved and chosen by God’s favor, by his grace. Not because she did anything to deserve. Simply because God graced her.
The same is true for you. You were chosen by God to be recipients of his favor and his grace. He’s favored you no matter what you’ve done or what you haven’t done. Because truth is, we don’t deserve his favor, and yet, we all stand right next to Mary as people who have been favored by God. And we see that grace and favor in action with the angel’s announcements.
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid,Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
How do you know that God favors you? How do you know you are a recipient of his grace? Because he sent Jesus. The one that the Old Testament had prophesied about for so long. The one God promised to send ever since Genesis 3:15 when Adam and Eve fell into sin. He was the one who was to come and undue everything that sin brought into the world. He came to live perfectly for us. Die to pay for our sins. And rise to overcome death. That’s exactly what he did. For you.
And now this descendant of David is sitting on his throne ruling forever in heaven. And our King Jesus looks at you personally and decrees, “You are forgiven. All the fibers of your sin have been taken away. You are clean and forgiven.” You are a recipient of his favor simply because of his love. And that’s true not just for you, but for all people. No matter what their background. He lived, died, and rose not just for you and me but for the entire world.
See, it was by God’s grace, his favor that Mary would be the mother of Jesus. But something wasn’t adding up in her mind. She said.
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Practically speaking Mary was wondering how this would work. The angel told her. And notice how Mary responded. “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.”
Trust the Lord.
Mary had so many reasons to be fearful, confused, and skeptical of all of this. And yet she didn’t. She simply trusted the Lord because he always keeps his promises. You may have a lot of reasons to believe that God doesn’t care about you. You may have circumstances in your life that you feel justified in doubting God’s promises. But you don’t have to look any further than the manger on that first Christmas night to see that God does favor you and that he does keep his promises. That message to Mary is still so exciting for us because in that message we hear that God has sent his Son to save us from our sins, and to grant heaven to all believers. In that manger he shows to us that he has favors on misfits, even misfits like you and me.