Hope of…

New Birth!  We’re quickly approaching the season of Christmastide, which begins on Christmas day, only 2 weeks away and celebrates all of the joy and hope brought to the world with Baby Jesus.  So this week we look at how the world, in the days leading up to Jesus’ birth, was also anticipating the changes that he would bring.

Scripture: Luke 1:39-45

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.”

Background on the Text:

  1. In Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus, he weaves together stories of two families: Zechariah and Elizabeth, parents of John the Baptist, and Mary and Joseph, parents of Jesus. Both families are models of faithfulness to God’s will, even though they cannot imagine what God has planned.
  2. Immediately after this passage, Mary “sings” the Magnificat, a song styled on the song of Hannah in 1 Samuel.

Exegesis (close reading) of the Text:

  1. Mary obeys the instruction of the angel Gabriel who tells her to go visit her cousin Elizabeth. Mary is told that Elizabeth’s pregnancy is another miracle from God, like hers.
  2. Elizabeth plays the role of a prophet in this text. She reacts when the Holy Spirit enters her (she receives a word from God) and then proclaims the truth she has been told about God.
  3. Elizabeth is humbled by God’s revelation that the baby Mary carries is her “Lord.” Lord is a term used both as a formal address and as the title for God, and Elizabeth probably has both meanings in mind.
  4. Elizabeth also sees the importance of Mary believing what God has told her.

Questions the Text Asks of Us:

  1. The latest National Geographic had a cover story titled “The Most Powerful Woman in the World.” It, of course, was referring to Mary. Why do you think this character in the birth story has held such sway over our imaginations?
  2. Elizabeth is arguably the more important character in this text. Why is she placed in this situation to proclaim what the reader has already been told? What is the purpose of this second proclamation?
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