The word “blessed” gets thrown around a lot in Christian circles. Often it just means wealthy: “So-and-so is really blessed” means, “He’s got a big bankroll.” Other times it seems to be synonymous with good circumstances: I’ve heard one preacher describe the “blessing of God” on his life when he found a great parking spot at the mall. And if you happen to live in the South, you’re familiar with the veiled insult, “Bless his heart.” (For the uninitiated, “bless his heart” is Southern Christian code for, “what an idiot.”)
If I were to make a list of the top things Christians are confused about, this would be in my top 5. What exactly is “blessing?”
When Gabriel announced to Mary that she was pregnant with Jesus, he said, “Mary, you are blessed and highly favored among women.” Mary is a great example of what it means to be blessed. But it certainly doesn’t look the way most of us would anticipate.
What was the NATURE of Mary’s blessing?
Mary’s blessing had two parts; the first was presence. If you read Mary’s song (Luke 1:46–55), notice how she speaks about God in the first person. My soul magnifies the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God my Savior. He who is mighty has done great things for me. And yet, nothing about Mary’s circumstances has really changed. She isn’t rejoicing in what God has given to her, but what God has become to her in Christ.
At this point, the baby in her womb is her only fullness, her only sustenance, her only salvation. After all, what “great things” has God done for Mary? Nothing outward. But God has become man to bear her sin and reconcile her to God. Mary rejoices in that gospel truth.
Mary recognizes that the mightiest act of God was not found in bare acts of power, but in the mystery of redemption. Did you know that only one thing in the Bible is called “the power of God”? God does many things by his power, but only one thing is itself called “the power of God.” That is the gospel.
That means that the incredible power required to create the world was less impressive than the incarnation. God created the universe out of nothing. A universe so vast that traveling at the speed of light, it would take 46 billion years to reach the edge of it. Yet Psalm 8 says that this was the work of God’s finger—not even his entire arm. Mary sings at the presence of Christ because she sees that the gospel is God’s very strength, the might of his arm extended toward us.
Do you still think you’re too guilty for God to forgive, or that your life is too messed up for God to save? Remember: God put less power into speaking the worlds into existence than he did into your salvation. And he did it so that you would know the blessing—the supreme blessing that makes all others pale in comparison—of knowing God.
The second part of Mary’s blessing was a promise. In Luke 1:54–55, Mary recalls that the coming of Christ was actually the fulfillment of a promise made to Abraham—a promise to use one of his descendants to bless all the nations of the earth.
But at this point, it’s been 2,000 years since that promise! And 400 years since the people of Israel had heard from God at all. Many must have assumed that the promises of old were no longer valid.
Yet God had not forgotten. He was working, just like he promised, to bring forth Jesus, which was a greater blessing than any of them had dreamed.
In the same way, he’s working in and through you Christians—sometimes invisibly, silently—to bring forth Jesus from you. Sometimes it may feel like he has forgotten. But he hasn’t.
Living a life of blessing and favor doesn’t mean living a life without suffering and tragedy. The conception of Jesus, for instance, created an enormous scandal for Mary. Almost everyone assumed that she had been sleeping around, so it ruined her reputation. Yet God chose to do it this way. Why? He was allowing Mary to taste the suffering of the cross, because that is how he would bring salvation to the world. God did not save the world through Jesus’ exaltation, but through humiliation and crucifixion. And we shouldn’t be surprised when God appoints a cross for us, in order to bring salvation to others.
What was the BASIS of Mary’s blessing?
Mary was able to see the presence of God and the promise of God as her true blessing. But not because she was personally remarkable. Her song (Luke 1:46–55) is all about God—his character, his promises, his salvation. Mary sees herself as guilty, unworthy, empty, and weak; she is in need of mercy, help, and strength. She is in need of a Savior.
Mary’s soul “magnifies” the Lord (v. 46), not her own holiness. Our lives can only magnify one thing, and that one thing should be the gospel of Jesus Christ. He took us while we were unworthy, empty, and weak—and reconciled us to God. That is true blessing, regardless of our circumstances.
Are you living as one blessed and highly favored? You can, if you are you willing to be blessed and highly favored like Mary was. In the worst possible circumstances, you can rejoice with her, because your blessing comes from the presence and promises of God. You can sing: In Christ, I can lose all that I have, because in Christ, I have all that I need.
For more, be sure to listen to the entire message here.
 Romans 1:16; Eph 3:7; 1 Thess 1:5; 1 Cor. 1:18.