We’ve all gotten bad gifts. And I don’t mean the “you got me this ugly sweater?” kind of bad gift. I mean the kind of gift that feels more like an expectation in festive wrapping paper. These kinds of gifts are, in fact, no gifts at all. They are transactions, and often, manipulative ones.
Mary has obviously gotten bad gifts before too. Her response is telling.
Luke 1:29 “…but she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.”
It’s almost as if Mary is wondering to herself, “What kind of gift is this? What do you want from me? What am I missing from this too-good-to-be-true scenario?”
Life teaches us to expect a catch. We wait for our “luck to run out.” We feel the burdensome expectations of life, and, most of the time, we feel like we are barely keeping up. We put expectations on others and are disappointed when they don’t live up to them.
This is life in the transaction.
But God’s love is different. He reminds us, along with Mary, “there’s no catch.”
Luke 1:30 “And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”
The “favored one” needs reminding that she has “found favor with God.” We all need reminding.
C.S. Lewis in his book “The Four Loves” describes something called gift-love.
Gift-love is the kind of love which neither expects nor requires reciprocation.
This is the kind of love God has for us. The only fitting response to this kind of love is an actively-passive response. It’s a posture of heart bent towards reception. It does not say “I’m going to make this happen,” but simply, “let it be.”
Luke 1:38b – And Mary said, “Behold, I am a servant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word.”
Mary gives herself to God, not out of compulsion, duty or strain — but out of love.
Luke 1:46-55 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked on the humble estate of His servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is for those who fear Him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to His offspring forever.”
Mary uses some form of “He has done this!” nine different times in this short vertical focused poem. It’s all about Him and what He has done! When you’re dealing with the God of gift-love, you can’t help but notice the ways He loves. You can’t help but praise. You can’t help but love.
Prayer: Lord, this Christmas, help me remember that Your love is gift-love. I can’t earn it, I can’t buy it, it just is. Always and forever. Thank you, God for such an amazing gift! In Jesus name, amen.
Adapted from Advent Adoration from Vertical Worship