Tuesday 21 December 2010

Bible Book:

"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." (v. 39)

Luke 1:39-45 Tuesday 21 December 2010


At one level this story could be taken as a story of necessity.An embarrassing pregnancy is dealt with by a stay in the countrywith relatives. At this level it is a deeply human story and themedieval sculptures of this visitation (such as this one from SanJuan de Ortega in northern Spain) rarely fail to capture thetenderness of the moment - two women holding each other in raptattention to movements within their bodies; two women who arebarely able to believe the extraordinary purposes of God in whichthey are caught up; two women needing affirmation in flesh andblood that this is real. 

At the same time, this is a deeply important story in Luke'snarrative. As the Gospel of John opens by intertwining the story ofthe Word becoming flesh and the heralding role of John the Baptist(John 1:1-18), so here Luke joins together thestories of these two radical preachers from their conception. ForLuke, the child, John, is no rival for Jesus (as somecontemporaries clearly thought). Here, he is the first to greet thebarely conceived Christ - a foretaste of his words at Jesus'Baptism (Luke 3:15-17). The second person to acknowledgethis child as Messiah is John's mother (vv. 42-43) as she namesMary, "the mother of my Lord". (Although 'Lord' could mean simplymean 'master', it is more likely that Luke is using the term of thepost-resurrection Church which was adopted to speak of the risenChrist.) 

Yet the person credited as the first believer in the Messiah isJesus' mother (v. 45). She trusted in Gabriel's words that her sonwould inherit the throne of David. In the speech of Elizabeth's,(v. 42b) known in some churches as the "Hail Mary", Elizabethpronounces Mary 'blessed' or 'happy'. It is the same word used ofJesus at his Baptism (Matthew 3:17) and it echoes the blessings ofthe beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12). It denotes the joy (v. 44)that comes to those who have found their place in the unfoldingstory of God. This is what has happened to both Elizabeth and Mary.Their lives will not be easy; there will be many trials to face;yet their faces and bodies radiate with an intense peace and joy atplaying their part in the drama of incarnation. 

To Ponder

Why do you think was it important to the Gospelwriters to establish the 'correct' relationship between John theBaptist and Jesus?

What experiences have you had of needing to spendtime with someone who is experiencing something similar to what youare going through?

How would you describe the experience of findingyour place in God's unfolding story?

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