Luke 1:39-55 (Common English Bible)
Mary visits Elizabeth
39 Mary got up and hurried to a city in the Judean highlands. 40 She entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.42 With a loud voice she blurted out, “God has blessed you above all women, and he has blessed the child you carry.43 Why do I have this honor, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45 Happy is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill the promises he made to her.”
Mary praises God
46 Mary said,
“With all my heart I glorify the Lord!
47 In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.
48 He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant.
Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored
49 because the mighty one has done great things for me.
Holy is his name.
50 He shows mercy to everyone,
from one generation to the next,
who honors him as God.
51 He has shown strength with his arm.
He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
52 He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
and lifted up the lowly.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty-handed.
54 He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
remembering his mercy,
55 just as he promised to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.”
Thoughts on the passage:
Imagine a round cake sitting on a cake stand. You are given a knife and asked with only three cuts to get eight pieces without moving the cake. Most of us who are used to cutting cakes and pies would struggle with this problem. Not because we are bad at cutting things, but actually because we are good at it, so good in fact we think we know what we are doing. If you try and make all three cuts the same way you will never get eight pieces. It takes a different mindset to do that. First you cut the cake in half and then again into quarters. Your third slice is horizontally into two layers, giving you eight, roughly equally pieces.
When it comes to understanding the miracle of Jesus’ birth, we need to change our mindset. We need to stop, listen, and think about things in new ways, because in the birth of Christ, God is doing unexpected things. If we think we know what is happening and we think we know what God is going to do, we need to be ready for a big surprise.
The first surprise comes with the announcement that two women are unexpectedly pregnant, Elizabeth in her old age, and Mary who is unwed. Both are people that society thought were without favor, Elizabeth who seemed barren, and Mary for being pregnant and yet unmarried. Yet, in them, God comes in new and unexpected ways. Mary names this in her song. God is lifting up the lowly, God is casting down the powerful, and feeding the hungry. The birth of a child is changing everything.
Having a child changes your mindset on a lot of things. Sometimes really small things suddenly become huge, like bathrooms. Shortly after Bryce was born, Marianne and I were travelling and stopped at a gas station to feed Bryce and change him. Both of us separately went in to use the bathrooms and separately came to the conclusion that we would not be changing our child there. Before we had the child we might have been slightly disgusted at the bathrooms, now that we had a child, we knew there was no way we were going there again.
The values of society often do not reflect the values of God. Things that we value as a society, like beauty, money, power, and technology, are not things that God places the same emphasis on. When God speaks it is often about the poor, the outcasts, and the sinners. As Christmas approaches we need to think about our mindset and what it is based on, the values of the world, or the values of the Word made flesh.
My mindset when it comes to Christmas is all about family. December 25th is spent with my family and then immediately after that we travel to see Marianne’s family for a week. Since coming to this church I have been rethinking that mindset. For several years now we have been trying to remind people that Christmas is not just for our families, it is also for people without families. For that reason, we offer a Community Meal each Christmas (this year the meal is at noon on Christmas Day). Preparing my mind for Christmas means getting past what Christmas means for my family and remembering that Christmas is for all families because it is for God’s family, and we are all God’s beloved children. Can we wrap our minds around that?
Questions to Ponder:
How do you need to prepare your mind for Christmas this year?
When is a time that your perspective on something was completely changed?
As you read the words in Luke, what part of Mary’s declaration speaks the most to you and what part challenges you the most?
Prayer: God, every year we talk about getting ready for your birth. Every year we try and prepare our homes, hearts, minds and lives for you. Be with us in this season of Advent as we prepare again for your birth. Help us to prepare ourselves that we can be ready to be faithful followers of you. AMEN