Finding favor with God
The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner 1898, with permission of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
"My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation" (Luke 1:46-50).
When I read the Magnificat, I am struck first of all by the sheer beauty and power of this song of praise.
Secondly, I am struck by Mary's wonder and surprise that she has been chosen as the bearer of God's grace.
Her response teaches us something about how we ought to respond whenever we find ourselves standing in the light of God's favor. We recognize, just as Mary did, that that moment was not about any particular gifts that she may have possessed. It was about God acting and her openness and receptivity to what God was doing.
Her simple response: "...let it be with me according to your word."
Luther held Mary in high esteem. She was for him the mother of God and, therefore, as the mother of God she holds a special place in the heart of Lutherans and in Lutheran theology.
I think just that phrase "mother of God" affirms once more the incarnational grounding of our faith. God has a mother, a mother who carried him in the womb for nine months.
As for every mother, with every stretch, every kick, every turn she was aware that she was carrying a life. This was a life that Mary loved, nutured, fed, cared for, prayed for and worried about.
I think of my mother who was my first teacher. I learned a great deal from her lessons that are lifelong.
I learned the meaning of compassion.
I learned to love Jesus.
I learned how to live with integrity.
I learned how to pray in those moments when I am confronted by some challenge or have to make some difficult decision.
I can often see her in my mind sitting at the kitchen table with her Bible open reading some passage. When she was finished reading she would end with a prayer.
It was a powerful prayer, powerful not just because of the words but because you sensed that she had poured out her entire soul to God. She believed that not only would God hear her, God would answer her.
I don't pray as well as my mother but I do pray with the same trust and I, too, believe that God answers.
There is something comforting about knowing that Mary was a mother and that she carried the Savior of the world in her womb.
He was the Son of God but I have to believe that this son learned a great deal from this very humble mother.
She taught him some things that he carried with him, that prepared him for life and that carried him into death.
Ken Wheeler is pastor of Cross Lutheran Church. He served 18 years as an assistant to the bishop of the Greater Milwaukee Synod of the ELCA.