Read Luke 1:29-56
When Mary first receives the visit from the angel Gabriel, she certainly has questions about this birth. Even after the angel answers her questions, she has trouble making sense of this word from God. She accepts the word and ponders it in her heart. This is a way of saying she doesn’t know quite what to make of it, but she holds onto it and waits to see what will happen.
Mary’s journey through doubt and confusion to shouts of joy is similar to how we might experience the miracles of God that happen in our world. Especially the miracle of the birth of our Savior. As we look at Mary’s story notice how she moves from raising the question, “What Child is This?” to shouting out with joy, “What Child this Is!”
Mary is set apart by God for an absolutely unique role. Yet, she is not left alone. Not only is the Holy Spirit with her, but God sends her to Elizabeth who is able to share in her joy.
Our Gospel Lesson in Luke takes place after Mary has received a visit from the angel of God. Mary has been told that she will give birth to one who will be called, “Son of the Most High.”
At first she is confused how this could be possible. “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” Implied in this question is another concern, “What would people say?” People looking on would not understand Mary’s special role in God’s plan. They would no doubt laugh and ridicule her. “What would Joseph, her fiancé, do?” Accepting this call from God to be the mother of the holy child means taking the risk being labeled a fool. Mary doesn’t know what will happen, but she trusts and she takes the risk of faith. She accepts the word of the angel and responds, in verse 38, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
Having received this word from God, Mary faces a difficult situation Who would understand? Who would appreciate it?
It is here in the story that another miracle happens. Mary is sent to visit Elizabeth, her cousin who also is unexpectedly pregnant with John. When Elizabeth sees Mary coming, she cries out, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Elizabeth becomes very excited. The baby leaps in her womb. There is something very special about this child Mary is carrying. Elizabeth is able to see and appreciate the specialness of the child growing inside of Mary and her enthusiasm shows.
Instead of feeling burdened by the isolation caused by her “specialness”, Mary is now able to sing, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Her worries about what might happen now that she has stepped out in faith are turned into enthusiastic praises of God, “who has looked with favor on the lowliness of God’s servant.”
The song that Mary sings is not just a private expression of faith, but a song that is rooted in the faith of her people Israel. Hannah sings a similar song in 1 Samuel 2.1-10. In their songs, these women realize that it is a blessing to receive God’s favor, no matter what burdens people might place on you. God will see to it that the tables are turned. The proud will be scattered, the powerful will be dethroned. Those who thought of themselves as special will be convinced of their common-ness and the common people, those who faithfully serve God and accept God’s call, as do Hannah and Mary, receive God’s blessing.
It is a wonderful thing that God sends people our way who can identify with our experience, who can walk with us on our journey through life. Thank God for those friends and family members we can stay with and talk to when we are confused, or filled with joy or sorrow. How important it is to have someone to share your stories with, like Elizabeth and Mary. God’s guidance is often found as we share our stories with one another. Like Mary, we may only see God’s blessing in our own lives as we hear about it from someone else, as we see our lives through the eyes of another.
Before she meets Elizabeth, Mary is only able to raise the question, “What Child Is This?” and accept the wisdom of God’s plan, pondering it in her heart. Through the power of the Holy Spirit and the company of Elizabeth, God transforms her pondering into praise. into a shout of joy, “What Child is This!”