Blessed and Highly Favored

January 1, 2020

First of all, let me wish all of you a very Happy New Year! Back to the “Roaring 20s” we go! I don’t know about you, but I’m believing that 2020 is going to be the best year ever!

So, I know Christmas is over. Ask me how I know? There are no presents under the tree, my hubby is taking down the Christmas lights on the house and I’ve just packed away all of my Christmas t-shirts, kitchen and fingertip towels. Insert long and heavy sigh. Don’t you just hate it when Christmas is over? And, all of my Enneagram 7s said “Amen!”

Anyway, I got distracted…I was saying that I know Christmas is over, but I’ve had this idea rolling around in my head for, honestly, weeks now and I decided that it’s OK to talk about a Christmassy thing one more time. Look, I warned you guys: I LOVE CHRISTMAS! What can I say?

The idea that keeps swirling around in my mind is about Mary, Jesus’ mother. If you’ll recall, Mary got an unexpected visit from an unexpected guest – the angel Gabriel. He was sent by God to Mary that she had been chosen by God to give birth to His Son.

The Bible talks about how Mary asked the angel how exactly this was going to happen, since she was a virgin – not just a virgin, but a betrothed (promised, engaged) virgin. The Bible goes on to say that Gabriel explained to Mary that the Holy Spirit would come over her and impregnate her. Gabriel also told Mary that her baby would be great, would be the Messiah, and would save the people from their sins.

In this dialogue between Mary and Gabriel, there are 2 lines that I’ve just kinda become fascinated with and meditated on for a couple of years now.

The first line is when Gabriel first appears and calls Mary “Blessed and highly favored;'” and the next line is what Mary says at the end of this encounter with Gabriel, which is, Sherra’s paraphrase,

“Well, OK; I’m God’s servant, so let it all happen just the way you’ve said.”

Now when you read this conversation, it’s so easy to think,

“Oh, wow! What a beautiful miracle! How sweet! What an honor it was for Mary to be chosen to be the Messiah’s mother!:

And, it was – it WAS! However, when you think about the specifics of what all that meant for Mary – her life, her dreams, her plans – it was anything but sweet. History tells us that Mary was probably about 15 years old at the time. As the Bible says, Mary was a virgin, which was prophesied about Jesus’ birth, but can you imagine? Especially in the Jewish culture, getting pregnant before marriage was a HUGE NO NO!

Our church staff did such a great job during the month of December helping us think about what the angel’s message, this “blessed event,” really would have been like for Mary. I mean, if a 15-year-old girl came up to me today and told me she was pregnant with the Holy Spirit’s baby, I gotta tell ya, I’d think she was either greatly disturbed or, most probably, had slept with someone and was trying to come up with a great way to cover that up. What would you think?

Then there was poor Joseph; can you imagine what he thought or how he felt? I can just imagine their conversation:

Mary: Joseph, I have something to tell you. I’m pregnant with the Holy Spirit’s baby, the Messiah.

Joseph: (crickets)

Mary: Joseph, please say something.

Joseph: Mary, how could you do this? You’ve ruined everything! I thought you loved me! Who is the REAL father? TheHoly Spirit? Seriously? Do you really think I’m going to buy that?

All that and so much more. Can you imagine those first few weeks, as only Mary could tell that her stomach was growing, planning the flowers or the fabric of her wedding dress with her mother, who she still hadn’t had enough courage to tell about her visit from the angel?

Can you imagine the tears she cried at night, when she was all alone, thinking that Joseph was planning to cancel their marriage because he didn’t believe her? Can you imagine how she felt, thinking that she was going to lose the man she loved, that she’d planned a future with?

Can you imagine the ridicule she encountered when she was no longer able to hide her pregnant belly? The whispers, the looks she encountered in the village, in the synagogue…Can you imagine her crying out to God,

“God, really? This is your idea of “Blessed and highly favored?”

I mean, when you think about it, why did it all have to go down the way it did? I mean, why couldn’t the angel have visited Joseph FIRST? And, then, why couldn’t she have become pregnant after they were married? I mean, I know Joseph would have been a little disappointed to have to, um, WAIT, but with the angel’s visit, I bet he could have been convinced, right?

It certainly would have been easier for Mary and Joseph, would’t it have? I’m sure there were so many moments when the 2 of them DID NOT feel blessed or highly favored.

Now, we know it all worked out; Gabriel spoke to Joseph – I mean, he was obviously picked to be Jesus’ earthly father – then, we know all about the star, the manger, the angels, the shepherds and the wisemen. The Bible tells us that Mary “pondered all this in her heart.” Yet, she had no idea what was coming.

A few years ago I read a book by Francine Rivers called the Lineage of Grace. It’s made up of the 5 women, mentioned by name, in the lineage of Christ. They are fictional stories, but so, so good! Of course, Mary was one. My idea of what “blessed and highly favored” means was drastically changed after reading that. I literally had to put the book down several times while reading, walk away and get myself together because I was sobbing so hard. True story.

If Mary thought her pregnancy was tough, can you imagine how she felt during Jesus’ Passion Week? Oh my gosh, just typing those words, allowing my mind to wander to how excruciatingly devastating and painful His crucifixion was for her! In most of the movies I see, Mary is there for the whole week, the beatings, the trial, the nailing and she’s upset, crying, sometimes even hard, but I always think,

“Uh, you guys better be glad that wasn’t MY kid you were doing all that to; all of you be missing hair, skin and need immediate medical attention.”

Right? I mean, I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I could easily, with my bare hands, almost mortally wound anyone trying to hurt my kids. No. Doubt.

Again, I can just imagine her screaming at God,

“God, why? After all I went through to have this baby, how can You let this happen? You said He would be the Messiah? The Messiah isn’t treated this way! How can He save us if He’s dead? Please, do something? IS THIS YOUR IDEA OF BLESSED AND HIGHLY FAVORED???”

I can’t blame her. Now, we know that all worked out well for Mary, too. We know she saw Jesus after His resurrection, before His ascension. We know she was taken care of by one of Jesus’ closest friends, the disciple, John – Jesus made sure of that while He was on the cross. But still: blessed and highly favored?

So, if we look at Mary as someone who was blessed and highly favored, what in the world does that mean or look like?

In society today, I feel like most people would say that to be blessed and highly favored means to have all of your needs met; it means to be happy; it means that your family is functioning well, you have plenty of money, all of your loved ones are healthy, etc. I think most people think to be “highly favored by God” MUST mean no problems.

Uh, not if we use Mary and so many others from the Bible as examples, right? I mean, if you study the history of the early church, ALL of Jesus” disciples died VIOLENT deaths because of spreading Jesus’ gospel – all except for John. Then, you’ve got others like Stephen, Paul, lots of others you could name who also suffered violent deaths due to their faith.

What’s up with that, God? Why in the world would that happen to the very people chosen to spread the Gospel, the people who had devoted their lives to You? “Blessed and highly favored?”

After much meditating, pondering and praying, in my opinion, I believe to be blessed and highly favored by God simply means to be used in a special way by God. To play an intricate role in his grand scheme.

Now before some of you get upset, let me just say that I absolutely do believe that God wants us to be blessed in the way that WE define that phrase; He’s promised to meet our needs, He wants us to have joy, be content. He wants our families to flourish, He wants us to make good memories, He wants us to be healthy. He’s promised all of that. But, unfortunately, none of us – not Mary, not the disciples, not even Jesus – are spared from trouble. We will ALL experience trouble in this life – but, don’t be afraid, Jesus has overcome the world (and it’s problems! Sherra’s paraphrase)

So, as we begin this new year, I do pray that all of us are blessed and highly favored by God, I really do. I hope this is the best year EVER for all of you!

I am so humbled and honored at the thought that God would choose ME to play a part in His plan! Just like Mary, there will most likely be times along the way where life certainly doesn’t look the way we thought it would – we may not FEEL blessed and highly favored. But, I pray that all of us, during this 2020 year, will be able to, like Mary, be willing to follow through on our part. I hope we’ll keep our eyes on Jesus, who gives us the strength we need to finish our role and see lives impacted.

So, again, Happy New Year, guys! Let’s jump into 2020 blessed, highly favored and ready to see what God will do in each of our lives!

Also, here’s just a little commercial: starting Friday I’ll be adding my PODCAST! It’s called “Life: It Happens” with Sherra G Edgar! It should come out weekly, on Fridays and be available on my website and most of the podcast apps! Yay! Sometimes it will just be me, rambling – I mean, you know, talking – and, sometimes there will be GUESTS!! You don’t want to miss it!

Now, go eat those black-eyed peas and tune in Friday!

and above all else love