Lectionary reading for 12/19/2021: Micah 5:2-5a; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45, 46-55
Selected passage for reflection: Luke 1:39-45
Luke 1:39-45 NIV
39 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 favored, 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 fulfill his promises to her!”
In this scripture we meet Elizabeth, once barren, now carrying a long-awaited child. She is visited by Mary, a very young woman, carrying the long-awaited Messiah but in the form of a baby she had not asked for.
Earlier in Luke the angel reveals to Mary, perhaps for the first time, that Elizabeth is also experiencing a miraculous pregnancy. And I think Mary is thinking: “if this is true, if Elizabeth is pregnant, then if anyone is to believe me—it will be her.”
And she does. In fact, upon the sound of Mary’s voice, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit. And she speaks truth. She proclaims that Mary is not just pregnant, she is carrying the Messiah. Elizabeth, the one with power—older, married, carrying a long-awaited child, of a priestly line—humbles herself before young Mary. Elizabeth recognizes the spirit moving in her, humbles herself and speaks prophetic truth
You wonder if John the Baptist’s life and call to prepare the way of the Lord actually began here. Began with his mother. Elizabeth, who spoke truth and hope and blessing at the right moment.
However brave and faithful Mary was, pregnancy for her would have been socially terrifying. I’ve met more than one woman whose pregnancy meant social, emotional and economic crisis. And Mary, angel or no angel, was unmarried and pregnant in a society that permitted stoning as a punishment for adultery.
But Elizabeth spoke truth and affirmation in this in between space. Elizabeth who knew the stigma and shame from barrenness now names Mary’s unwed pregnancy as good. When the world considered Mary immoral and sinful, Elizabeth knew different. And when Mary’s future looked shame-filled and treacherous, Elizabeth declared Mary a blessing.
The Magnificat, Mary’s Song, is amazing and beautiful and prophetic for the world but it does not surprise me that it comes after she is greeted, welcomed, blessed, affirmed, and loved by Elizabeth. Before Mary sings and makes her prophetic proclamation to the world, Elizabeth says to Mary: “I believe you. You are the mother of our Lord. You are blessed.” Elizabeth’s words prepare the way for Mary’s words.
Mary and Elizabeth brought hope and salvation to the world through the children they bore but also through their prophetic words. The Holy Spirit not only brought about miraculous births—the Holy Spirit also transformed ordinary women into prophets.
This is a pivot here in the story of God as recorded in scripture. Elizabeth is the last barren woman story in scripture and Mary’s pregnancy is the last recorded pregnancy in scripture. Salvation and hope for the people of God will no longer be through childbirth—it will be through the Word. The Word (meaning Jesus) who dwelled among us, who is God, and was with God in the beginning. The Word proclaimed through the power of the spirit.
The Word has come to us and lives in us. Through the Word we were given the right to be children of God. Children born not of natural descent or human decision but born of God.The Word lives in those who believe. The Word, our savior, makes us all bearers of light, good news, and prophetic words of hope and truth.
Have the words of someone else ever empowered you to take a step of faith, to speak up or speak out, to respond more faithfully to God’s call on your life?
Have you ever asked God to make you sensitive to the spirit so that you can speak words of truth that empower others to “sing”?
Read the scriptures below and ask God to bring to mind someone in need of a prophetic word of encouragement. Call them or write a note and proclaim this truth over their life.
Isaiah 40:28-31, Romans 15:13, 1 John 3:1, Isaiah 43:1,4, Romans 8:37-39, Matthew 6:25-26
Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, use my words to speak truth and power to others. Amen
About the Author
Rev. Dr. Devyn Chambers Johnson currently serves as Co-Lead Pastor (with her husband Ryan) at Covenant Congregational Church in North Easton MA. She is the founder of Four More Women in Pulpit, an advocacy movement for women preachers. Devyn is the proud mother of Rosie (9) and Susanna (5). Find out more at revdevyn.com.