Often when we find ourselves in a similar season of life to those around us, we note how they are handling their situation compared to our own. It can be dating in high school, the wedding season that starts in college and continues into the following decade, and especially the era of bearing children. In our lives, competition may be the natural underbelly of this comparison, but in Luke’s account, that is thoroughly eclipsed by the focus on God’s coming kingdom.
The angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would miraculously bear a son and that her cousin Elizabeth had also become pregnant in her old age. When Mary visited Elizabeth, surely the two women would have noticed where their situations diverged. Elizabeth’s disgrace among her people was taken away in pregnancy; Mary’s began in pregnancy. Elizabeth’s son was given through the institution of marriage; Mary’s was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
The tension I imagine in this meeting is further compounded by the Magnificat. With Christ's imminent entry into the world, Mary’s song describes what kind of kingdom he has come to establish. It is one that will reverse societal norms. The proud will be scattered, the rich sent away empty. The humble will be lifted and the hungry filled with good things. It is clear when reading Luke that Elizabeth had been lifted up and that Mary was lifted even higher. To the contemporary, undiscerning eye, however, Elizabeth had a right to be proud and Mary had none.
How understandable it would have been for Mary to only seek shelter in their visit or for Elizabeth to only offer commiseration. Perhaps they could have fallen into the awkwardness of not acknowledging their differences while preparing for the coming births.
But Luke doesn’t record tension or sorrow between the two women. He records joy. Beyond the outward manifestation of their pregnancies, the most important similarity between them was the weight of the miraculous—evidence that God is present, active, and deeply invested
in us. As Charles Spurgeon said about the Magnificat, “Oh, how we ought to rejoice in him, whatever our union with him may cost us!”
Elizabeth’s exultation and Mary’s song cause me to ask myself some poignant questions: Do my eyes look for the movements of God even when they go against what is socially acceptable? Would I declare someone blessed even if it required humility in my deepest desires?
Because he is merciful, my soul should glorify and my spirit rejoice. I want to joyfully exclaim in the midst of our differences like Elizabeth or sing praises in the face of communal persecution like Mary—not for the sake of being contrarian but to be focused on the coming glory of Christ’s kingdom.
Dorothy Bennett holds a master's in Theology & Art from the University of St Andrews. She currently co-runs a video marketing company in Austin, TX.
This article is part of The Eternal King Arrives, a 4-week devotional to help individuals, small groups, and families journey through the 2023 Advent season . Learn more about this special issue that can be used Advent, or any time of year at http://orderct.com/advent.
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