Series: Christmas Presence
Message: Shipping Presence
Preacher: Jenniffer Ogden
Reflection: J. Murdock
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Zan Long
Live Beyond: Vanessa Alarcon
Live Purpose: Don Pate
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Luke 1:26-45 in the English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: Every year in the fall, People magazine releases their “Sexiest Alive” issue. Flipping through the pages of the magazine allows you to chart who the “Sexiest Joke Writer” of the year is as well as the “Sexiest TV Host” and “Sexiest Superhero.” It’s your one stop shop for the most beautiful humans Hollywood can offer! In 2019, out of every man on the planet, the one chosen for his character, good looks, career prowess, and overall sexiness was John Legend. Forevermore, John Legend will be immortalized as the 2019 Man of the Hour.
In Luke 1:28, God sent an angel to a town in Galilee called Nazareth to meet with one woman named Mary who was engaged to a man named Joseph. The only thing we are told about their relationships is that Joseph is Jewish and they have remained chaste throughout their engagement. When one uses the barometer of what us considered sexy by today’s standards, Mary and Joseph would likely not rank very high. And still, Gabriel came to Mary and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” Put in another way, Gabriel says to Mary, “Mary, you have been chosen by God.”
Of all the people, in all of time, in all the places across the globe, God chose Mary. Scripture tells us that Mary likely agreed with my previous assessment of her position, as we read in Verse 19 that Mary “was pretty much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” In this moment, Mary is all of us in trying to figure out the answer to the question, “Why me?” Or all of the people in the world, why choose me?
This year, immediately following the release of the November issue of People, CNN released an article explaining how the magazine figured out exactly who should win and what the process of determining sexiness looks like. In the article, the editor-in-chief explained that the process of searching for the next winner begins the day after the magazine releases the issue in the previous year. The number one determining factor (surprisingly) is not looks, but begins with a judgment of internal beauty. The “Sexiest Man” is a person of character, Wakeford said, but they also consider “who is hot, who is doing really well, and who actually is sexy.”
God chose Mary, and the buzz that follows this announcement would change the world forever. It’s a daunting task to shoulder the burden on being chosen by God. This burden would come in the form of a bundle of Joy to the World in the least sexy location on the planet. This season, we take time to remember the things that matter most and to reflect on the people and things chosen for a specific purpose and set aside for adoration. For some, that may mean fawning over the A-listers lifted high for their provocative looks and keen sense of style. For others, it’s a time to be thankful for being chosen by God to live in a time where the sexiest alive walk amongst the rest of us in the light of the truth that we are all saved and loved in the exact same way regardless of our social status.
Next year, there will be another list of chosen people. While you and I may never make it on to that list, do not forget that because of your relationship with Christ, you are blessed and highly favored every step of the way.
Recalibrate: When did you arrive at the realization that you were chosen by God? How might you reawaken that knowledge in your life this week?
Respond: Pray that the choices you make honor God and your relationship with Him.
Research: Read Ten Reasons to Revel in Being Chosen by God by John Piper.
Remember: “Gabriel answered, ‘The Spirit of Holiness will fall upon you and almighty God will spread His shadow of power over you in a cloud of glory! This is why the child born to you will be holy, and He will be called the Son of God’” (Luke 1:35, TPT).
J. Murdock is associate pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado, where he focuses on youth and young adult ministry.
Listen to the song Do You Hear What I Hear with your child. Learn the actions and sing along. Do you hear what I hear? During this season, the December season of Christmas, let’s celebrate the presence of God’s spirit within us. Do you hear His voice calling you to be expectant for all that is good? Do you hear what I hear? The angel Gabriel answered, “The spirit of holiness will fall upon you” (Luke 1:35).
Watch Christmas According to Kids. The Words to Remember are found in Luke 1:35, and they tell us how the angel Gabriel told Mary she was going to have a baby—but not just any baby. Mary’s baby was going to be Jesus, God’s son. “Gabriel answered, ‘The Spirit of Holiness will fall upon you and almighty God will spread His shadow of power over you in a cloud of glory! This is why the child born to you will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God’” (Luke 1:35, TPT). Imagine that you are the angel Gabriel—how would you say these words to Mary?
A few years ago, I was on a Bible Lands Study Tour. It’s just what it sounds like: touring all the lands mentioned in the Bible—but with homework. During that trip, I visited many, many churches. So many churches that they all end up looking the same. The second week of the tour, we went to Nazareth and visited the Church of the Annunciation. It was a beautiful church—one of the most beautiful of them all. It was built as a celebration of that special moment when the angel told Mary she was going to give birth to Jesus. Something I do remember—not sure if it was this church specifically or one nearby—was that there was a ceiling covered with the letter M. I remember looking up at the ceiling and seeing all those letter M’s. The tour guide told us that this was to honor Mary! While we are going to spend some time getting to know Mary, the hope is that we continue to give all the glory and praise to our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Those of us who come from the Protestant side of Christianity have generally avoided the Mary “stuff.” (I guess we’re afraid we’re going to look too Catholic if we aren’t careful.) But it would seem that if there was a girl in history of whom Heaven said, “You are the most highly favored of every woman who has ever been born on this planet,” we might do well to give her at least a little attention. Now is when I drop the bomb on you. I have a question and I have no answer for it but I know it’s a worthy question: Was little Mary of Nazareth the first candidate God chose for this role of honor? Is it possible He actually targeted some other girl, or two, or three . . . from Nazareth or Capernaum or Beth Saida? Is it possible that the one who would be held in honor throughout eternity could have been named Davra or Shira or Martha or Sarah or . . . ? We remember Mary because she said, “Yes.” Not a bad lesson for all of us. God is waiting for willingness, probably nothing else.
Zan Long is GRC director for faith development for ages 0-17. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and serves at her local church in nearby Kellyville.
Vanessa Alarcon is a licensed clinical social worker who focuses on addiction treatment in Denver, Colorado. She also serves as the Faith Engagement Pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado.
Don Pate is “retired” in Tennessee after decades of teaching and pastoring but is still active in speaking and creating for the Kingdom.