Monday, December 15, 2008
Luke 1: 39-56
39In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
Mary has already been told that she will conceive and bear a son, and the angel Gabriel has told her who this son will be, that he will have a kingdom that will have no end. The angel has also told her that her cousin Elizabeth is also pregnant, and Mary probably knows that this is more work of the Lord, because she knows how old her cousin Elizabeth is.
41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
This is certainly not your usual greeting by an older woman to a younger one. There is perhaps a span of 60 years between them, and yet, when Mary appears, Elizabeth gives her a greeting that is reverent and joyful, which most days would be very odd for an older lady greeting a girl.
Now Mary, who has already had an angel visit, and has now become pregnant by divine means, hears from Elizabeth that Elizabeth's baby has started kicking like crazy upon hearing Mary's voice. The last line of Elizabeth is the most important, though. The wonders upon wonders continue. "And blessed is she who believed that there would be fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord." Zechariah, Elizabeth's husband and the one person in this story with any status at all, didn't believe, and now, in this point of the story, he has been struck speechless, not to utter another word for three more months, until John is born and about to be named. Mary, however, does believe, and has figured out what all these things that have happened to her, means.
46And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
If Mary were living today, and was indeed a typical girl of her age, she might very well have texted OMG to her friends. It means "O My God", the electronic equivalent of "Omigod", in Valley girl-speak. Except she would actually be meaning the "my God" part. Mary knows who she is. She knows that she is a young girl who lives in a country occupied by foreigners. She knows that she is often in danger, and that her life is not worth much. In her culture, she's destined for early marriage, as she was already entering into when the angel came, being engaged to Joseph. The plan for her ,as for so many of her friends, was to have kids, hopefully lots of them, to be dependent on her husband for income, unless she can create a few crafts for sale in the market, and to die at a very young age. She knows that her cousin, Elizabeth, is an old woman, who has already passed her years of usefulness by those standards, and the fact that she never gave birth to any children sets her very low on the hierarchy of their culture. Surely there were women who walked by Elizabeth in the market and made that tsk-tsk sound in pity at her wasted life.
But God has other plans. From these two people, who exist on the bottom rung of life, far from power or prestige or honor, come the fulfillment of prophecy and the coming of the Kingdom of the Lord. God did not choose to break into the world through the riding of a great white horse into Rome, shining sword in hand, to clean house. God chose to enter the world as the Christ through a human being, as a human being. And God did not choose to be born by the daughter or one of the wives of the Roman Emperor, or even by the wife of Herod, but he chose to come to us through an unmarried young girl, and the one who would announce his coming came not from royalty, or status, but from what we would call a crone. And by doing so, God announces not just that he is in the world, but that all people in his world are important. 52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
This son that she is about to have is coming for all. It takes time for people to understand this all part--Even after Jesus has died and been resurrected, and has returned to heaven, it takes Peter's baptism of the Roman soldier Cornelius and the following great meeting in Jerusalem for the followers of Christ to understand just what all really means.
Because Elizabeth believes, The announcement of the Lord comes. Because Mary believes, the Lord domes. Because they agree, their world changes. Because they agreed then, and believed, our world still changes. Though our belief in God's lifting up the lowly and casting down the rich, oppression lives in fear. Through the acting of God in human history by the acceptance of two marginalized members of a minority population, we know that Christ will live, and die, for all. Through our belief in the gifts that this child, the Christ, who will be named Jesus, will bring for us, we will be saved.