21 December 2013

Luke 1:39-45

"Blessed are you among women." (v. 42)


Elizabeth's pregnancy is well advanced when her cousin Mary comes with news of her own child to come. Here is the intersection between the unexpected and the predictable. In Elizabeth's case the pregnancy was unexpected because she had long been reconciled to a life without children of her own, and then, surprise, surprise, she finds herself with child. She moves from shame, anguish and fading hope to startling and joyful realization. Down the centuries since Avram and Sarai looked ruefully at one another across their tent (Genesis 18:1-15) the stories of barrenness patiently endured and finally fulfilled recur time and again. Elizabeth's delight for herself and her cousin, and her relief for herself, are so vivid! Mary, on the other hand, had no inkling that she would be pregnant at this point of her life; she was barely promised in marriage to Joseph (Luke 1:27).

Two women surprised by joy -one after interminable waiting, the other almost before she was ready for the experience. From a clear forward view of unfolding courtship, marriage and home-making to a sudden storm of responsibilities whose scale seemed to grow as Mary continued to reflect on this turn of events.

Two stories: one of faithfulness in waiting when hope had all but died; the other, of faithfulness when the most shocking announcement had come out of the blue and had been accepted with humility.

Once the surprising pregnancies are established there is a sense that nature takes a predictable and finite course. The biological clocks are ticking. Nothing can be done to speed them up or slow them down. The births of these children can be predicted to within a few days. We have moved from dreamland to daybreak.

To Ponder

  • When you receive startling news, either wonderful or desperately sad, is your first instinct to share the news with someone else? Or do you prefer to keep it to yourself? Ask yourself why.
  • Are you more comfortable when every day is different and there are crises to cope with, or when life is rhythmic and predictable? How does your faith help you prepare for times which take you outside your comfort zone?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr John Ogden

John Ogden spent most of his life (he is now in his late 70s) teaching Computer Science in the universities of Glasgow and Reading. A local preacher since 1964, he served the Reading and Silchester Circuit as a circuit steward in the 1980s, then candidated for (non-stipendiary) ministry.