The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”
(Luke 1: 30 NRSV)
Not far from where I live there is a store that sells unclaimed baggage. These are the suitcases, duffel bags, and other packages that were left on lonely baggage claim conveyor belts and never picked up. They served their time at the airport, patiently waiting for their owners to return, but they were never claimed. Thousands and thousands of bags arrive at the store, and their contents are sold at discount prices. It is a strange sight, really— all these items that once belonged to people now forgotten and left behind.
I often am surprised by how many people I talk to who don’t feel much different than these discarded suitcases. People who, from my vantage point, are beautiful, successful, talented, and intelligent can feel very little worth. I talked recently with a friend I have admired for many years, and as he talked I couldn’t believe what a skewed view of himself he has. He is amazing, but he can’t see it— at least he couldn’t then. But it’s not just other people. I am surprised how often I can feel less than an insecure— and I just plain know better.
I love how the angel spoke to Mary. His first words to her were, “You have found favor with God” (Luke 1: 30 NRSV). In other words, you have great worth to God. God has chosen you. Then the angel urged her not to be afraid. God, the angel said, is honoring you.
We are familiar with Mary, the mother of Jesus, being honored. She is one of the most revered figures in human history. But she must have thought, “Me? Highly favored? God is honoring me?” Mary first gave some reasons why this couldn’t be so, but then she accepted it. She accepted that she was favored or honored by God.
This story shouldn’t cause us to see Mary as superhuman or as one among a group of rare individuals God desires. Instead, her normalcy and humble disposition should lead us to see ourselves. And as we see ourselves in her ordinariness, we then must open our hearts to hear God call us favored and honored. I wish I could relive that conversation with my friend. I would grab him by the arm and say, “You are loved and favored by God.”
Don’t be afraid; God is looking to honor you by including you in the great story of reconciliation. If you feel like unclaimed baggage today— going round and round on the conveyor belt, overlooked and unwanted— try to stop and hear God’s words of worth. They aren’t just for Mary; they are for you too.
God, today when I feel insecure, please remind me of my great worth to you. When I feel ordinary, remind me that is precisely the kind of person you desire and use. When I feel unclaimed, assure me of the claim you have on me. Amen.