December 19, 2021
Sunday Between December 18 and December 24 Inclusive
Read the passage at the bottom of this post: Luke 1:39-45, (46-55), The Message or Luke 1:39-45, (46-55), The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
Permission is granted for non-profit use of these materials. Acknowledgement in oral presentations is not required. Otherwise, please acknowledge source as, "David Ewart, www.holytextures.com."
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country.
"Those days" are the first days of Mary's pregnancy - of the pregnancy of a young girl - probably less than 15 years old - of the pregnancy of a young and unmarried girl living in a small village where such a thing would bring untold shame - no, not UNTOLD, but rather frequently told gossip, that would shame her, her family, and her child for ever. In THOSE days, Mary flees her village and heads for the far away hills.
As Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh (page 229) succinctly put it:
Travel for other than (religious purposes) was often considered deviant behavior in antiquity. While travel to visit family was considered legitimate, the report of Mary traveling alone into the "hill country" is highly unusual and improper.
Even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will ... make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
This is the child - whom we know as John the Baptist - who leaps in his mother's womb at the sound of Mary's greeting to Elizabeth.
Again, Malina and Rohrbaugh comment (page 229):
Normally speaking, matters having to do with the womb are not talked about in public. This is women's talk and it is usually kept carefully within the private circle. ... The fact that Luke reports such female conversation here suggests that he considers the reader a family insider.
Therefore, before moving too quickly to the magnificence of Mary's Magnificat, it is perhaps wise to pause and sit within the intimacy of these two women's conversation. To consider ourselves not as distant outsiders, but as invited and welcomed extended family into a blessed conversation between these two women.
Does anything leap for joy within us? Can we feel the stirring of new life? Of age old hopes? Of the impossible longing to become possible?
And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.
And blessed today are we who also believe.
Mary's song of praise, Verses 46-55, pretty much summarizes the teachings of Moses and the Prophets.
Anyone who thinks the Good News of Jesus Christ is only about one's personal, individual salvation / forgiveness / justification / redemption will have a hard time preaching this text. This is a text about social reversals / transformation. Those of us who are proud, smart, powerful, high status, and well-fed have a tough text to hear today.
But the text today has moved from a young girl fleeing in shame from her home to that same young girl's soul magnifying the Lord, and her spirit rejoicing in God her Saviour.
We may not need to flee in shame, but the text is calling us to also move; to also move from whatever space we are in to a space of seeing and naming and rejoicing in all the deeds God is doing to restore the creation to its fair balance.
Note: Historical background information in this post is drawn primarily from Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, pages 228-229; and the writings of Amy-Jill Levine, et. al. See link below.
Luke 1:39-45, (46-55) (NRSV)
39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah 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 and exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."
46 And Mary said,
"My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the
lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all
generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done
great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the
thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful
from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to
to Abraham and to his descendants
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Luke 1:39-45, (46-55) (The Message)
39 Mary didn't waste a minute. She got up and traveled to a town in Judah in the hill country, 40 straight to Zachariah's house, and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby in her womb leaped. She was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and sang out exuberantly,
You're so blessed among women,
and the babe in your womb, also blessed!
43 And why am I so blessed that
the mother of my Lord visits me?
44 The moment the sound of your
greeting entered my ears,
The babe in my womb
skipped like a lamb for sheer joy.
45 Blessed woman, who believed what God said,
believed every word would come true!
46 And Mary said,
I'm bursting with God-news;
47 I'm dancing the song of my Savior God.
48 God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
I'm the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
49 the God whose very name is holy,
set apart from all others.
50 His mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe before him.
51 He bared his arm and showed his strength,
scattered the bluffing braggarts.
52 He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
pulled victims out of the mud.
53 The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
the callous rich were left out in the cold.
54 He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
he remembered and piled on the mercies,
piled them high.
55 It's exactly what he promised,
beginning with Abraham and right up to now.
Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
* Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Bruce J. Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on ... The Synoptic Gospels; The Gospel of John; The Book of Acts; The Letters of Paul; The Book of Revelation; and others.
+ Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, Jewish Annotated New Testament, The Bible With and Without Jesus, Short Stories by Jesus, Entering the Passion of Jesus, and others.
Permission is granted for non-profit use of these materials. Acknowledgement of source is not required in oral presentations. Otherwise please note as, "David Ewart, www.holytextures.com."