December 24, 2023
Greetings, favored one! I’ve come to tell you that God is about to turn your life upside down. That plan that was once laid out before you, no longer applies. The simple life you thought you might lead is about to explode in such a way that people two thousand years from now will still be saying your name and will have seasonal figurines of you sitting out on the mantles above their fireplaces.
Greetings, favored one! Here is your mission, should you choose to accept it. You will birth God into this world. You will carry the weight of the incarnation inside of your body. God will be nourished by what nourishes you. God will take up space under your skin, until the time comes for you to bear God into the world through sweat, screams, and tears, and then you will hold divine love in your arms, a powerless small thing that will need to be fed, and clothed, and protected.
Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you. Do not be afraid, but do be aware that people will misunderstand and judge you. The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and people will have no idea what that means. They will write songs, movies, and sermons about you. Little children will audition for your part in the play. You will be given many titles by many nations, and artists from everywhere in the world will attempt to capture your likeness in paintings, sculptures, mosaics, and every other kind of art that exists anywhere. Some of which you can’t even imagine yet!
Greetings, favored one! Jesus, the son of the Most High, heir to the ancient throne of David, whose kingdom will never end, will be yours to raise. It will not be easy. He will do miraculous things, but first you will need to teach him how to be a human being. You will sing him lullabies and tell him your people’s stories. You will show him what it looks like to be loved and how to build a life on Earth. You will be his example for living in community. You will show him how people find joy together, even in places that are occupied by empires, and long after the Roman empire has fallen, your name and the name of your son will still be celebrated around the globe.
Greetings, favored one. You who cannot wait for God to scatter the proud, bring down the powerful from their thrones, and lift up the lowly. You whose song of praise is that God fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty. People will gossip about your age and question your wisdom, but the tenacious faith of your soul, in the face of seemingly unchangeable realities, will magnify the Lord for all generations. In you, God is pleased to dwell and keep those ancient promises that you know by heart.
Greetings, favored one. You who never could have foreseen that your life would have such a sacred purpose. You who pondered these strange greetings, perplexed, and yet, a willing servant of the Mighty One who does great things. You who said “let it be” when God trusted you with a holy task that few would be brave enough to take on. Adonai is with you, and even though it may be hard to believe right now, nothing will be impossible with God.
God’s favor is not all blessings and butterflies. You know this if you have ever sensed a calling in your life. If you’ve ever felt like there was something you needed to do, even if you were afraid to do it. If you have ever held something precious and small and sacred and been asked to nurture it into being. If you have ever felt God moving through your body, your hands, or your words. If the Spirit you carry inside of you has ever shaken the walls of your heart saying, “It is your turn now to incarnate God’s love in this world.” You know.
God sometimes asks hard things of us and does not apologize for it. Because living is hard and becomes even more so when we listen to the love inside of us; When we don’t smother that holy flame that writhes in our gut, but instead let it burn and transform us into something new; When we let loose the mighty wind that fills our lungs when we have something important to say; When we use our rock bottom as a foundation on which to lift up all the people of God.
God’s favor doesn’t make guarantees for how we will live, if others will treat us well, or even whether we will be successful in the things that we do. God’s favor has nothing to do with awards, recognition, or wealth on Earth. God’s favor comes to humble people, to shepherds lying in fields, to young mothers from Nazareth who dream of overthrowing tyrants and protecting their children.
God’s favor comes with hard questions, and challenging ideals to aspire to, which we aren’t always going to reach, but the call to incarnation is like a tide that will not be ignored, a magnetic pull that can coax us out of our ruts, a Spirit that knows our discontent and whispers, “Do something about it.”
When the angel comes to Mary, proclaiming God’s favor to her, it’s not a Christmas blessing meant to soothe and reassure her. It’s more like a heads up, and an invitation. A heads up that God was about to do something miraculous and fantastic. Something world-changing that would bring about joy and pain, hope and confusion, peace and conflict, love and struggle, because everything that is worth anything comes with a mixture of both.
And an invitation to be a part of it, to have a role which would catapult her through a series of great challenges that might have felt nearly impossible to face, except that she did not have to face them alone. Fredrick Buechner wrote that, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” I like to think that during that moment in time when God spoke to Mary, her deep gladness met with God’s desire to answer the deep hunger of our world, and she was not afraid to choose to be a part of it.
I think having God’s favor is finding purpose and meaning in life. It is hearing sacred callings and finding sacred answers. It is responding to the tidings that came to you, by letting them become fully enfleshed within you. God has called us all to different things, and you alone are qualified to determine what calling you have received. You alone must choose whether and how to respond to the calling of love incarnated that is alive in you, an open and always evolving invitation that is wherever we are, the invitation to live fully and to give life to each other.
It is Christmas Eve, and we are all waiting today for Christ to arrive on Earth again, to be embodied anew by all of us in whom God’s Spirit dwells. My prayer for you, beloved of God, is that as we celebrate together you too will feel God’s favor. Not just as a pat on the back for what you have done, but as a push in the direction your heart desires to be headed. And I pray that when you do, you will let your life speak, let your light shine, and nurture the calling that God has given to you, to carry love into this world and lay it in the nearest manger.
I pray that you will find God within your very being – alive and surrounding you with grace, even while you face things that are difficult and wonderful, painful and joyful, exhausting and life-giving. I pray that you will find meaning, and peace, and hope in discovering where God is calling you now, where your own deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.
Greetings, favored one. I have been sent here to give you a heads up that you have been chosen to carry Christ in your very being. It won’t be easy, love seldom ever is, but fear not, for Adonai is with you and anything is possible, even life, and life abundantly for us all.
You have been chosen and called, no matter what disqualification just popped into your head when I said that. May you know that you are loved, and known, and already enough for the call you’ve received. May you embrace God with your life, like Mary, knowing that God declares you worthy, and that you are already enough to bring love incarnate into this world today. Be blessed as you do so this Christmas and forevermore. Amen.
 Fredrick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC