Seasons greetings everyone. Rob here.
One of my favourite parts of the Christmas narrative is when Mary and Elizabeth come together in Luke 1:39-56. They are a study in contrasts. Mary is a young virgin, probably just a teenager. Elizabeth is an older woman who has carried the shame of being childless throughout her married life. Both have been chosen by God to fulfil a special task. Elizabeth will give birth to John the Baptist, the one who prepares the way for the Messiah. Mary will give birth to the Messiah himself, the Saviour of the world, Jesus. This is their encounter.
At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her!’
The joy of the occasion leaps at us. It reminds us that God was at work and doing a new thing among his people and it started with the intimate obedience of these two women. In Elizabeth’s case she is carrying on a biblical tradition of God reversing the shame of childless women in order to advance his kingdom purposes on the earth. Think about Sarah giving birth to Isaac and Hannah to Samuel. Despite this miraculous change in her own fortune, Elizabeth’s joy comes form the fact that she is in the presence of Mary, the mother of her Lord. The Holy Spirit reveals this truth to her and the Spirit leads her into rejoicing.
The two women rejoice together because they have been given a vital role to play in God’s will being done on earth. Despite their lowly status they have been given honour in God’s sight. Mary sings,
My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me –
holy is his name.
This Christmas season let’s allow their story to speak to us. Despite living in a time where God seemed to be silent, they both maintained a strong faith and stayed open to God and his work. They submitted to God’s way of doing things. For Mary, this meant putting herself into a life-threatening situation as an unwed, pregnant women. She still said yes. They also knew that to do God’s work is life’s greatest joy. This is, perhaps, what we in this modern age need to learn the most. There are pleasures available to us on tap; cheap travel, endless entertainment, craft beer! The illusion of joy is well cultivated on our social media platforms. Despite that, the fact is that doing God’s work is our greatest joy. This is simply because it’s what we are made for.
Doing God’s work may look unusual. It may even be life-threatening or at least, unpopular. It took Jesus to the cross, Paul to prison and Peter to both. Mostly, God’s work takes us to our knees before the feet of Jesus asking for his help and his strength. That’s a good place to be. He will give it.
May God bless you this Christmas as you present yourself before Jesus asking him for the strength to do God’s will, carry his love and rejoice in his name.