In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’
And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
And Mary remained with her for about three months and then returned to her home.
The Birth of John the Baptist
Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son.
What did you want to be when you were growing up? Did it change lots of times? Can you discern patterns and similarities with what you did end up doing? Maybe you ended up doing something completely different or you were spot on. Sometimes, behind the idea lay a talent or trait that you did use, but in a very different way!
Parents often have lots of hopes and dreams for their children. And during pregnancy, all sorts of dreams and wonderings are part of the experience of waiting. For Mary, she had a sure and certain hope of who and how her son would be. He would bring down the powerful and send the rich away, but lift up the lowly and fill the hungry with good things. What a wonderful promise for her to hold onto during her pregnancy.
Pregnancy back in those times was a risky business. Even today in the developing world, giving birth has a high risk of mortality, and in our own country, we have shamefully disproportionately bad outcomes for the poorer in society and those who are members of ethnic minorities. In almost a throwaway line, the gospel tells us that Elizabeth and Mary spent three months together during their pregnancies. Both so unexpectedly pregnant, for very different reasons! We can just imagine the comfort and joy that must have brought, as they compared experiences and supported each other through the physical, mental and spiritual challenge of pregnancy and impending parenthood.
This Advent, as we pray Maranatha, Come, Lord Jesus, I hope that we can be inspired by Mary and Elizabeth in their wonder, awe, hope and joy at their impending pregnancies. I hope we too can also place our trust and worries, our hopes and uncertainties in the hands of God, who promises such a great saviour, who will bring justice and mercy to the world, as Mary sang.
Hope of the World!
Maranatha, come Lord Jesus!
Maranatha, come Lord Jesus, Light of the World!
May we like Elizabeth and John rejoice in recognising your coming.
May we like John play our part in preparing your way.
May we like Mary say yes to what you ask of us.
May we like Mary magnify your holy name.
We ask this in your name, the one born in Bethlehem.