Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
Our Gospel reading this last Sunday of Advent draws us into the time of Mary’s pregnancy. It’s a very fitting preparation for the celebration of Christmas to begin in just a few days. Very shortly after Mary received word from the angel about her miraculous child, she hurried to her cousin Elizabeth, who was also miraculously pregnant, being past childbearing age and never having conceived before. Elizabeth was about six months farther along than Mary, so this encounter would be relatively early in Mary’s pregnancy. For what it’s worth, it would possibly make more sense to read this passage near the end of April, but today we can consider it a little flashback.
Lukes narrative suggests that Elizabeth would not have had prior knowledge of Mary’s story. Mary entered the house and God gave some prophetic gifts all around. John, in Elizabeth’s womb, leaped for joy, and Elizabeth knew why. It is because the Lord, the Messiah, the Savior, has just walked into the house, inside his mother.
We see that Mary’s response is all about God’s mercy. It’s all about how God is coming to save the world, to redeem those in bondage, to bless people, to exalt the lowly, to care for the poor. Once in a while we see signs that our world really doesn’t understand this view of God. There’s a cute cartoon that circulates every year around this time. It’s got people riding camels that have bumper stickers on their back ends. Honor student, soccer star, etc. Then there’s one that says something like, “My son is God.” The other parents are, of course, at least a little jealous. While it’s a cute idea, notice the way Mary seems to view the coming of the Messiah through her. It’s an honor that she could never deserve. And the work of the Messiah is to redeem people, to bring care where it is needed. Frankly, Mary would probably be offended by people thinking she was exalting herself. She was astounded that God would visit his people in this way.
Mary stayed with Elizabeth, according to verse 56, for about three months. We have no idea what else they did or talked about, but it would make a lot of sense that Mary would stay until a little while after the birth of John, so as to help her cousin. That attitude of mercy and service is, after all, one of the Lord’s priorities.
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