December 21, 2009
"Blessed are you among women!"
Sarah Jennings, Family Editor Crosswalk.com
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to the city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechari'ah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord."
You don't need me to tell you Christmas is fast approaching. Less than a week remains to prepare for the big day. Chances are, you're rushing around trying to get last minute errands completed. I have a mental list of "must do's" running through my own head.
So as I read this gospel for the final Sunday of Advent, I am struck by how Mary prepared for Christ's coming. Mary received the biggest news of human history, the coming of the Messiah (through her!?), and what does she do? Mary sets aside her own agenda and "went with haste" to visit her cousin Elizabeth. At this point, Elizabeth's pregnancy is entering the final trimester and no doubt this older mother is tired and in need of assistance.
I imagine Mary must have had a lot of thoughts running through her head on the way to Judah. "Is Elizabeth really pregnant in her old age? She must be… but really? And how am I going to explain my situation to Elizabeth? Will she believe me?"
Mary's arrival is one of those great moments in history - a moment that reverberates throughout the ages that follow. This simple story of two pregnant women meeting carries so many implications. Some of the themes that stick out to me include:
1. Mary's faith. Mary was obedient to God and put faith in him. She set aside her own comfort and questions to help Elizabeth. Mary's virtue shines through here, and God throws in a little reward - a miraculous and joyful greeting from Elizabeth.
2. Elizabeth's selflessness. Elizabeth's news is a pretty big deal. Her husband receives a vision from an angel and she conceives in her old age after years of waiting. Yet, her first response focuses not on her big news, but on Mary's. This reveals Elizabeth's virtue and also adds emphasis to the reality that Mary's news holds even more profound implications for humanity than Elizabeth's miracle.
3. The humanity of the unborn. In those days, pregnant women didn't enjoy the luxury of ultrasound technology. Yet, God makes the humanity of these little ones very clear here. Elizabeth exclaims, "And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" Elizabeth refers to Mary as "mother" in the present tense and she refers to the growing baby inside of Mary (who probably wasn't even showing yet) with his proper title: Lord. God was "with us" the moment Mary conceived, and even the unborn John the Baptist recognized this!
4. God works through fellow human beings. God could have found any number of ways to communicate his message that day. He chose to speak through Elizabeth and John and the communion between Mary and Elizabeth. He also brought help to Elizabeth during her last trimester through Mary and comfort to the newly pregnant Mary through Elizabeth.
5. God's love for women. How can there be any doubt that God has a special place in his heart for the fairer sex after reading of Mary and Elizabeth's stories? God could have arrived on earth in any form he chose… and while the rest of the world remained ignorant, two women basked in the presence and knowledge of the Lord.
I am sure great theologians can extract even more from this story, but I'll leave it here for today. As your schedule ramps up in these final days of Advent, imitate Mary who "treasured up" the mysteries revealed to her and "pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2: 19)
Intersecting Faith & Life: How is God present in your life this holiday season? Think of the little ways God makes his presence known and brings you comfort and joy even in the midst of trials.
Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19
Women of Advent and Christmas: Elizabeth
Women of Advent and Christmas: Mary, Not Just a Womb