Sovereign Lord, you are the God of my waiting, the basis of my hoping. Come, O come, Emmanuel. I long for you.
Read LUKE 1:39-56
Mary Visits Elizabeth
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘And with the treasures of his grace / to enrich the humble poor.’1
A first pregnancy brings questions and anxieties – especially so for Mary, being young, pregnant, and unmarried. It is natural that she should seek the support of an older relative, especially one who could empathize. (There is no support in the text for the idea that Jesus and John were close cousins; Mary and Elizabeth are simply described as relatives, v 36.)
Mary’s celebratory poem (despite the heading, ‘Mary’s song’, in most modern translations, Luke records ‘Mary said’, v 46) has justifiably taken a prominent place in Christian worship. Firmly rooted in Old Testament ideas, it underlines again the continuity between the promise and the fulfillment. It is a celebration of God’s power (v 51), mercy (v 54), and faithfulness (v 55), recalling, like many psalms, God’s saving acts in history. It encompasses both personal praise and national rejoicing; at this stage, the international dimension of what God is doing is only hinted at in the mention of the promise to Abraham (v 55).
There is a radical edge to the poem, which reflects the concern for social justice found in the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms.2 The expectation was that the Messiah would establish God’s just rule. Jesus did nothing to change that emphasis. Our world tends to emphasize either wealth creation or wealth distribution. Biblically both are important, with the needs of the poor seen as the concern of wider society. This raises challenges for most readers of these notes who will, in world terms, be relatively wealthy. Research indicates that people with religious faith are, for the most part, more generous than those without – but that gives no grounds for complacency. We have a calling not simply to do what we can to support specific initiatives but to work for justice and a fair distribution of the world’s resources.
This Christmas what more could you do to help bring justice to the world’s oppressed and poor?
Dear Lord, I am reminded today that I am to share the provisions you have given me with those who are less fortunate. I am reminded too, it is more blessed to give than receive.
1 Philip Doddridge, 1702–51, ‘Hark! the glad sound! the Savior comes!’ 2 E.g. Deut 15:4–11; Ps 72:1–4,12–14; Isa 1:16,17
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