“Mom always liked you best.”

That was the plaintive quip of older brother Tom to younger brother Dick Smothers on their Comedy Hour TV Show back in the 60’s — in black and white —

It was a comedy “bit”, a “gag.” But I always had the sense that somehow there was some bit of truth beneath it. “Mom always liked you best.”

Today it’s all of us younger brothers and sisters perhaps, tempted to quip and complain, about that “older favored sister.” More loveable, more worthy of attention, more trusted and more venerated! “God always liked Mary best!”

Have you ever considered yourself, the “Favored One?”

Have you ever called yourself or had someone else call you, “Blessed!?!”

“Hail, Favored One!” “…You have found FAVOR with God!,” Gabriel says to Mary.

“Blessed are You!”, Elizabeth says to Mary.

And when it’s all said and done in our Gospel story today we find in verse 48 Mary calls and considers herself both Favored and Blessed!

“My soul magnifies the Lord, 47& my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48for he has looked with FAVOR on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely from now on all generations will call me BLESSED

When we think of Mary, when we “ponder” Mary, we are likely to consider her…EXTRAORDINARY.

Certainly, our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters believe so,
venerating if not deifying her. She is young but courageous and graceful
likely a young teenager at the time of her visitation by Gabriel.

She is faithfully obedient, open, and ready with a pure servant’s heart to accept God’s extraordinary call to bear God’s Son to the world.
Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” {vs.38}

“Let it be… according to your word…” Can it get any more pure, faithful, and obedient than that? “Blessed are the pure of heart… Mary!”

Who talks like that?

And not only that, she is humble… lowly by her own estimation and self-regard…{vs. 48}. “…(God) has looked with favor upon the lowliness of God’s servant.”

But before we pedestalize and venerate Mary so far above us “ordinaries” as to be unreachable and impossible to follow as our example and mentor, let’s be careful and clear to recognize that it is NOT Mary’s character or her performance or her worthiness that earns and makes Mary so favored, or so Blessed, or so exceptionally EXTRAORDINARY.

It is God’s benevolent regard for her that makes Mary who God makes her to be! Mary is no “self-made woman!” She STARTS OUT advantaged with God’s favor and blessing BEFORE she’s called out of Nowheresville Nazareth and counted on by God to be God’s “Go-To Servant Mother!” God has had God’s eye on Mary from the beginning. God knows the blessed hairs on her head. God knows the perhaps-still-childish thoughts of her heart. God knows her going out and coming in. God Knows— Mary!

If we go back to the beginning of our Good News story from Luke for today ,we find when Gabriel greets Mary as “favored one” the “f” in “favored” and the “o” in “one” are not capitalized, meaning it is not an address to one who is “entitled.” “Favored One” is not the royal title of a Mary born with a silver spoon in her mouth.

“Greetings favored one,” is the angel’s promising declaration to Mary that defines her condition. Gabriel is telling Mary how God sees her,
God simply “favors” her, God “graces” her, God “blesses” her (in verse 28)! And then, in a way, Gabriel intrudes in Mary’s life. He tells, assures, and secures Mary by proclaiming to her the first of his Good News messages for her.

“The Lord is WITH you… (Mary)!”
“The Lord is with YOU… (Mary)!”
“The LORD is with you… (Mary)!”

Might it be that it’s not that Mary “so believes” in God that “it” sets her apart, but that God “so believes” in her? That God sets her apart and gifts and equips her for her part in God’s plan? So much so, that God chooses her…

SO young, SO small town, SO unknown-till-now as to be unheard of.
God chooses this one particular lowly Mary to bear Jesus, to bear the Messiah, to bear Salvation into the world?

Mary, SO one of us! SO one with us!
Might it be, like Mary, we are favored & blessed to be God’s lowly but “Go-To Servants?”

Might it be, like Mary, we are favored & blessed & called to bear the Savior to the world!?!

Might it be, like Mary, we are blessed & favored to hear, “God is with US” and that means we can recognize and tell all the world that, “God is WITH us!”

And that means we need not fear— anything! When we get unfavorable news…An unfavorable diagnosis? God is WITH us!
An unfavorable pink slip? God is WITH us!
An unfavorable message from a loved one like “I’m leaving YOU!”
God is still WITH us & God will never leave us or forsake us!

Might it be, like Mary, we are blessed and favored to share with all the world that “…God has done great things for us!”
“God has freed us
From our addictions
From our fears of the shadow of death
From our shame and self-loathing
From a critical and judgmental spirit

God has freed us
To comfort the sick and bereaved and terrorized and hungry
To raise up the people of color & the homeless and the aged
To dare to call the hateful, the terrorists & greedy to justice
To live abundantly and joyfully through all circumstances?”

Mary is “worthy”, worthy of our veneration, but even more so, Mary is worthy of our emulation.

Our Gospel story today might inspire a worthy prayer to sing like Mary.
It could be our own personal Magnificat,
that our souls would magnify the Lord to all,
that God would intrude in our lives like Mary’s,
that God would regard our lowliness as “go-to servants”,
that God would favor and bless us and make us to BE like Mary.

Joy to the world, for God, is with us and is doing great things for us!
Joy to the world, the Lord has come! Amen.