And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall call his name Jesus.” Luke 1:30-31
Last week, there were two articles carried by most of the news services, which captured my attention.
The first was the story of Gillian Gibbons. Gillian is an English teacher at an exclusive, British-run school in the Sudan. As of this writing, Gillian sits in prison, and if she is found guilty of the charges made against her, she will be publicly lashed or sentenced to six months in jail. A terrible punishment for a terrible crime? Maybe. Let me tell you what Gillian has done. When a seven-year-old girl brought a teddy bear to class Gillian decided to use that bear as a prop. She asked the class to pick a name for the bear. Hassan, Abdullah and Muhammad were considered. Muhammad, the name of the most popular boy in class, won. For naming a teddy bear Muhammad, Gillian has been charged with blasphemy and insulting Islam’s prophet. For fear of reprisals, her school has been closed until January.
The second story is that of an unnamed 19-year-old girl in Saudi Arabia who, while traveling with a man who was not a relative, was stopped by seven men and raped 14 times. The men received prison sentences from less than a year to five years. The woman has been sentenced to six months in prison and 200 lashes. Her crime? She was driving in a car with a man who was not related to her.
When I read of how those women have been mistreated, I had to recall the respectful greeting of Gabriel to a girl from Nazareth by the name of Mary. You remember his Advent words, don’t you? He said: “Don’t be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. . .you will bear a Son. . .and you will call Him Jesus.”
Scripture doesn’t give us a lot of information about Mary. It doesn’t tell us the name of the place where she was born or share her birthday. It doesn’t tell us what she looked like, or what events had shaped her life. The Bible doesn’t tell us a lot of the things we might like to know about her, but it does tell us she had found favor with the Lord. It also tells us she was willing to do whatever God asked –even if it meant watching her Son, her Savior, our Savior, die on a cross to save humanity from sin.
Because of what Mary’s Son has done for us in fulfilling the law, taking our punishment, dying our death, and rising from the grave, St. Paul was able to write: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
Saint Paul knew through Jesus all who believe in the Savior find favor with God.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, while You were with us You were unfairly persecuted and murdered. Still, through Your sacrifice we have been saved. Now we ask that You will protect all those who are denied justice. Bring them, keep them in the faith so they may know that by faith they have been given favor with God. In Your Name. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries