December 16, 2015
By John Nelson.
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 leaped 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 leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."
Mary could have been the serene young woman, the virgin mother mild of song and story. She could have been, but we don't know that. What we do know is that she was poor, and the poor were despised. She was a child, and children were seen as without worth. She was female, and women were devalued as persons. Mary was, in the religious and economic terms of her day, without value. Until the angel announces God's intention for her, there was, in Mary's place, utter silence.
After Gabriel had announced God's plan, Mary replies: "Let it be according to your word." This does not sound like the outburst of one who is jubilant in God's favor. It sounds more like the voice of one who obeys another, more powerful than she. You and I have reason to be grateful for this union, but can we be certain that Mary is excited? Or has she been forced to learn compliance? Mary has been chosen by God - yet has God treated her as her society did: a vessel for childbearing? Mary has been given a glorious position, yet she's the one who has to live through morning sickness, with little choice in the matter.
Mary rushes off to her cousin Elizabeth: a first, striking act of agency. Now comes a miracle. When Mary enters Elizabeth and Zechariah's house and greets her cousin, Elizabeth's child turns in her womb. Mary, for the first time in her story, is heard as Mary. She is recognized. Here is the truest annunciation, from another woman whose dream has come true and from the baby in her belly. No angel visitant, but others from society's margins perceive Mary for the prophet she is becoming. Now she can truly sing her Magnificat: "My soul magnifies the Holy One."
There is more than one miracle in the story. God's glory is unparalleled, and the works of God's hand are marvels. It is Mary, however, who finds the companions who delight in her for who she is, and not for what they may make of her. It is Mary whom we might follow to discover joy - in a baby's quiet revolution at the sound of her voice.
God of miraculous appearances and startling announcements, we praise you for Mary and Elizabeth: for their scrappiness, for their strength, for their love for each other, and, yes, for their faithfulness. Grant us grace to turn in delight at the arrival of the next companion we meet. Amen.
Spirited Wednesday: December 16, 2015 , by John Nelson.