2 Dec. Luke 1:26,39-56

2 Dec. Mary stays with Zechariah and Elizabeth 

"During Elizabeth's sixth month of pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth... 'Now Elizabeth, your relative, is pregnant with a son though she is very old. Everyone thought she could not have a baby, but she has been pregnant for six months. God can do anything!'"

“Mary got up and went quickly to a town in the hills of Judea. She came to Zechariah's house and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the unborn baby inside her jumped, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit."

"She cried out in a loud voice, 'God has blessed you more than any other woman, and has blessed the baby to whom you will give birth. Why has this good thing happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? When I heard your voice, the baby inside me jumped with joy. You are blessed because you believed that what the Lord said to you would really happen'."

"Then Mary said,
'My soul praises the Lord;
my heart rejoices in God my Saviour,
because he has shown his concern for his humble servant girl.
From now on, all people will say that I am blessed,
because the Powerful One has done great things for me.
His name is holy.'"

"'God will show his mercy for ever and ever to those who worship and serve him.
He has done mighty deeds by his power.
He has scattered the people who are proud and think great things about themselves.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
and raised up the humble.'"

"'He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away with nothing.
He has helped his servant, the people of Israel,
remembering to show them mercy
as he promised to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his children for ever.'"

"Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home."

          (Luke 1:26 & 39-56)

 

 

In his account of the run up to Christmas, Luke combines and intertwines two separate but related stories - the birth of John the Baptist and the birth of Jesus the Messiah. For the moment, we're going to stick with the first of these stories, and concentrate on the events leading up to the birth of John the Baptist.

It's now sixth months since the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah to tell him that his wife, Elizabeth, would become pregnant and would give birth to a son who should be named 'John' (Luke 1:13).

Today's passage takes up this same theme. Mary, who's just been told by the angel Gabriel that's she's expecting Jesus (we'll return to this later) arrives at the home of her close relative Elizabeth. The unborn baby inside Elizabeth jumps for joy at Mary's voice, and Elizabeth cries out, 'Why has this good thing happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?'"

With this greeting, Elizabeth is referring back to the words of the angel Gabriel, that her unborn son, John, will "go before the Lord in spirit and power like Elijah... to make a people ready for the coming of the Lord" (Luke 1:17). And she is confirming that Mary's unborn child is, indeed, "the Lord" for whom John will prepare the way.

Mary is thrilled to hear Elizabeth's greeting, and praises God, saying, “My soul praises the Lord; my heart rejoices in God my Saviour” (Luke 1:46-47). This prayer is known today as the ‘Magnificat’ from the Latin word for ‘glorifies’ or ‘praises’.

Mary's two or three day journey from her home in Nazareth in Galilee to "a town in the hills of Judea" near Jerusalem (Luke 1:39) is usually overlooked in our traditional accounts of the Christmas story, but it's worth pondering why Mary may have embarked on this long journey to visit a close relative almost immediately after hearing that she is herself pregnant.

For an unmarried young woman to become pregnant outside marriage in the Jewish world of the New Testament would have been a source of great shame and disgrace. Indeed, Matthew tells us that Joseph, to whom she was betrothed, "did not want to disgrace her in public, so he planned to divorce her secretly." (Matthew 1:19)

While Matthew goes on to tell us that Joseph changed his mind after further reassurances from the angel Gabriel (see Matthew 1:20-25), other family and friends in Nazareth may not have been so easily persuaded of Mary's innocence. So perhaps it's not surprising that Mary left Nazareth immediately after she and Joseph learnt that she was pregnant, and spent the next three months many miles away where no one (apart from her close relative Elizabeth) would have known anything about her.

The photo (by Dan Lundberg) shows the Church of the Visitation in En Kerem, the hill town near Jerusalem in which Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah are thought to have lived.

You can read about En Kerem and discover more from the Christmas story @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/…/2…/johns-mission-foretold/


Printer Printable Version