Two years ago, I put together five devotionals for Advent. I'm going to revisit them this year...
Elizabeth: Attentive Delight
|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 what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" 46 And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour..." (Luke1:39-46)|
Elizabeth was the barren and aged wife of the priest Zechariah. She was six months pregnant as the result of a promise given to her husband by an angel. Mary was a young peasant girl engaged to Joseph the carpenter. She was a relative of Elizabeth and the angel told her that she was supernaturally pregnant with the long-awaited Messiah.
Mary is famous for her faithful response which is especially illustrated by her song of praise which we call the "Magnificat". Most of the time we assume that Mary's response: "I am the Lord's servant, may it be to me as you have said" was immediately followed by the Magnificat. But it isn't.
Something else happens first...
Put yourself in Mary's shoes: She's pregnant, the only explanation she has is a vision of an angel. Joseph, her fiance', will probably reject her - he could even have her stoned. Society will ostracise her. She must have been pretty terrified and she must have felt quite alone. Her parents don't seem to be in the picture and so she heads off to see her relative, Elizabeth...
There were good reasons NOT to go to Elizabeth:
- She was a much older woman and her husband was a priest
- She was legitimately pregnant whereas, by human terms, Mary wasn't
- She was the wife of a priest and should disapprove of Mary's state
But Elizabeth must have been a special person because Mary goes to her and stays for three months.
When Mary arrives, just the sound of her voice causes baby-John-inside-Elizabeth to dance and this causes Elizabeth to recognise what God is doing in Mary.
It is this affirmation and this delight that causes Mary to "magnificate"!
What can we learn from Elizabeth?
- Are we "safe spaces" for others? Do they feel that they can come to us when they're in trouble?
- Are we hospitable people, ready to open our lives to others?
- When we see God at work are we ready to exclaim and affirm?
Elizabeth's "empathetic enthusiasm" moved Mary from fear, uncertainty and doubt to Magnificat.
May we do the same.
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