Luke 1:39-49 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.” “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.
Just after her encounter with the angel Gabriel, Mary went to the hill country, to a village of Judea, to the house of Zechariah, to Elizabeth. Her haste may convey obedience, but since she was not told to go to Elizabeth, it is more likely an indication of joy and wonder. There is no question or doubt. The verbs convey the movement, the urgency, and the joy of her journey: Mary set out, went with haste, entered the house, and greeted Elizabeth. The meeting of the women is also accompanied by a sign: The child in Elizabeth’s womb leaps. She then explains the meaning of the movement of the babe in her womb. It was a leap of joy. The angel had promised Zechariah that he would have joy, and now joy has come to Elizabeth at the visitation of Mary. Her joy inspires a like response in Mary, who in her song of praise – the Magnificat – rejoices in God her Savior.
– Adapted from the New Interpreters Bible Commentary, Vol IX, p. 54-55
Questions about the Scripture
1. Mary set out go to go see her relative Elizabeth “with haste”, a challenging three day journey for a young pregnant teenager, likely on foot. Gabriel had previously mentioned Elizabeth (v. 36), and this spiritual nudge was likely a motivator. That said, what does her decision to make this difficult journey without delay convey about her willingness to listen for and respond to God’s promptings? How does Mary’s example challenge you to listen for and follow God’s guidance?
2. The sound of Mary’s voice led to a visceral, joyful response in Elizabeth and in her unborn child (John the Baptist). In that spirit of joy, she offers Mary powerful words of blessing. What impact might these words have had on the young teenage Mary? How might this inform how we might invest in teenagers (or people of all ages) today? Who might God be calling you to bless in this season?
3. At a time of year so often filled with things to do and things to buy, what can we learn from the joy that resulted from Mary and Elizabeth giving one another the gift of presence? How can we be more present to the people we encounter or spend time with in this busy season?
4. Mary’s ‘song’ amplifies the joy of the moment. Are there songs that bring you joy in this season? Share with someone your favorite ‘go-to’ song or songs of joy.
Community & Personal Action Items
Over the course of this week together, let’s challenge ourselves to do one (or both) of the following action
1. Write. Write a handwritten note (remember those?) to someone this week and offer a word of affirmation or blessing, or include a note of blessing on a Christmas Card.
2. Share (the Joy). Invite a friend to join you for a Christmas Eve service at 4, 6, 8 or 11. Additionally, take the 140 year Challenge – inviting one person to one event once a month in our 140th year (2019). Sign up cards are available at the welcome or hospitality desk.
3. Connect. There is no better time than the New Year to join a Life Group or Sunday School Class. Contact Pastor Rick (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
4. Remember. Memorize the following verse this week. Then discuss its meaning and application with your family, friends, or small group.
MEMORY VERSE: “…the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” – Luke 1:49 (NRSV)