Mary and Elizabeth: Sharing the Wisdom

The story of Mary and Elizabeth is told in Luke 1:26-56.

Mary and Elizabeth:  A teenager and an older woman with no children who, as scripture has it, was “getting on in years” (Luke 1:7). Angels appear, the holy Spirit intervenes, and each becomes pregnant. It could not be more unlikely. 

Elizabeth greets her pregnancy with a sense of vindication – the Lord has looked favorably upon her and taken away the years of disgrace she has suffered because she was barren. Mary greets the news of her pregnancy with perplexity and apprehension. But she, too, accepts the will of the Lord. 

The record does not tell us why the pregnant Mary “went with haste” to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Maybe she needed to get out of Dodge and water-well gossip about her “condition.” Maybe she went to help her pregnant cousin. Maybe it was just what she needed to do.

But when Mary enters her cousin’s house, immediately Elizabeth’s baby recognizes the Christ in Mary and “jumps for joy” (luke 1:41.) John the Baptist, as Elizabeth’s baby will be called, even now is preparing the way for the revelation of Jesus as God Incarnate – first to Jesus’ mother, Mary, and later to the world. 

And it is this that elicits the signature hymn of Advent – the Magnificat. It is in the coming together of the two women that Mary recognizes the full import of what is about to happen to her and to the world. Mary’s words echo those of Elizabeth – “This is the Lord’s doing – He has looked favorably on me.” 

Old Elizabeth and young Mary each carry a piece of the Kingdom of God. The promises God made to His people Israel through Abraham, calling them to be a light to the nations, are about to be seen by the radiance of God Incarnate in Jesus. The New Covenant does not replace the Old Covenant – it illumines it in a new way.

Mary sees it – God has been at work in the life of his people from generation to generation.  All that has been revealed in history is caught up into this new time, this new order, this new understanding, this reordering. Not a new kingdom, but a new understanding of the ongoing  Kingdom of God.

The story comes to us through Sarah’s long struggle,  through Miriam’s joyful outburst in song and dance, through Deborah’s leading her people into a time of peace.  Through Shiprah and Puah’s discernment and Jael’s cleverness. 

The question for us is: What is God setting before each one of us in this season of Advent and this season of our lives? What do we need to let go of from our histories so that we can move forward? What in our journey has served us well that we are now called to explore more deeply? How can we say “yes” to life on the terms that God is giving us? 

On Christmas, when you hear that first anguished cry of the baby in the manger or pause to listen to Christmas bells, be reminded that God has been faithful — but God is not done with you.  

What new thing is God calling you to birth, even now – especially now – in these elder years? 

– Marjorie George, Advent 2021

Return to Toward Incarnation – Readings and Reflection Questions page.

Reflection Questions

Of the five women we have met this Advent, with whom do you most resonate? Why?

What new understanding of God’s work in bringing the world to himself has been revealed to you?

In your life, where do you see God incarnate?

How will you welcome God incarnate in Jesus Christ this year?