Scripture: Luke 1:39-56
Key verses: (39-40) In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
Reflection: Our Christmas hymns show us Mary, the mother of Jesus, as a quiet figure. We sing of “gentle Mary,” “mother mild,” “mother kind.” In art she is often depicted the same way, with lowered gaze and a submissive posture. She does defer to the will of God, as described to her by the angel Gabriel, and she does spend time after the birth of Jesus “pondering things in her heart.” But before and after the birth of Jesus, she shows herself to be a remarkable woman, in both her actions and her words.
After Gabriel tells her of God’s intent that she bear the Messiah, Mary sets out to visit her cousin Elizabeth in Judea. We’ll see her again on difficult, even dangerous journeys: to Bethlehem in the last days of her pregnancy, to Egypt as a refugee fleeing violence, to Nazareth to build a life, to Jerusalem more than once when Jesus young. And again to the foot of the cross in Jerusalem, when he is crucified. She is more than just a silent vessel for the son of God. She goes where she is needed, even if the cost is great.
And she speaks up. Her song at Elizabeth’s house, early in her pregnancy is not a lullaby of a meek and mild mother. I’ve seen it described as a political manifesto, with a bold agenda: “to bring the mighty down from their thrones; to scatter the proud in the imagination of their hearts, to fill the hungry with good things and send the rich empty away.” I imagine Mary today might be in Raleigh or DC protesting on behalf of justice and human rights. She would be serving a meal or overnight at the shelter, if she weren’t one of its residents. She knows, before anyone else, that the child she mothers will usher in a world–turned-upside-down future. His birth in a barn was just the beginning.
One of the hymns in our new hymnal captures some of her bold vision and spirit. It’s an Irish tune for a paraphrase of Mary’s song in our verses from Luke for today. Imagine her singing it as she traveled where God called her. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9QeTmRCpW4
Prayer: Lord, give us the vision and spirit of Mary. Help us trust in your plans. Help us seek your kingdom in all its power and justice. As we celebrate the birth of the Christ child, prepare us to follow wherever he calls us. In his name we pray. Amen.
Author: Julie Hester
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].