Elizabeth is surprised that the child within her leaps for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice. Elizabeth’s greeting in return surprises Mary. Elizabeth, “filled with the Holy Spirit,” confirms Gabriel’s message to Mary, who surprisingly breaks out in song.
Mary’s singing may not surprise those of us who read Luke 1 and 2 every year at Christmas. Once we reach the part where Elizabeth greets Mary, our minds may race forward to Mary’s singing about the greatness of God. Seriously, when did you last open the door to your house, greet someone, and have that person start singing? But it seems like everyone starts singing at Christmastime. Luke tells the Christmas story in such a way that we think singing has always been a part of Christmas.
The beginning of Luke’s Gospel reads like a musical. Visits are suddenly interrupted by someone breaking into song: Zechariah at the naming of John, the angels telling the shepherds about the birth of Jesus, Simeon in the Temple at Jesus’ dedication, and Mary when she visits Elizabeth.
Mary sings about being caught up in God’s visitation of Israel, a visitation that alters the status of the poor and the proud, the hungry and the rich. She does not sing of future promises but of promises fulfilled. God’s redeeming work is already active. And God’s visitation is more than a blessing for Mary’s life; it is a blessing that extends far beyond her.
When God surprises us with a visitation, it not only blesses our lives but the lives of others by God’s work through us. So join voices with Zechariah, Simeon, the angels, and Mary. Rejoice in God’s surprising work in and through you.
God, my spirit rejoices in your surprising presence among us. Amen.
As Christians we understand that our faith is rooted in the ongoing story of God’s faithfulness to God’s people. Micah celebrates this story, prophesying that the true king of Israel will one day come from the small village of Bethlehem, Jesus’ birthplace. Luke features women prominently throughout his Gospel. The two readings from Luke this week highlight the prophetic insights of Elizabeth and Mary. Mary visits Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John, God’s messenger. After Elizabeth identifies Mary as the mother of the Lord, Mary breaks into song, understanding that her story is tied to the fulfillment of God’s promises going back to Abraham. Little does she know that her son will one day offer his body as a sacrifice for all, as Hebrews tells us.
• Read Micah 5:2-5a. What “small” beginnings have yielded great results in your life?
• Read Psalm 80:1-7. How does this psalm of lament speak to you? When has God restored you and shone the light of divine love on you?
• Read Hebrews 10:5-10. What do you believe God desires from you? In what ways does Jesus’ life of obedience help you understand God’s intention for you and the world?
• Read Luke 1:39-55. When have you been stopped in your tracks by meeting unexpectedly an old acquaintance? How did God speak to you in that encounter?
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