Luke 1:39–45 NRSV – “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. 46 And Mary said, “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. 50 His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.””
Summary – In this passage Luke explains the Annunciation, the meeting of the mother of John the Baptist, Elizabeth, with Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. The two cases of Elizabeth and Mary are woven together in Luke 1. The pregnancy of Elizabeth confirms her own pregnancy and enables Mary to better grasp what God is doing and how the divine purpose is going to be fulfilled. Mary extolls the Lord in the canticle we call “The Magnificat.” – “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. . .”
Insight – Have you ever read a book or watched a film with a surprise ending? Can you think of an example of a surprise twist in the plot of a story? Some might think, that a virgin-born Savior is such a twist, but I don’t think so. The Bible prepares us for the Annunciation of a virgin birth with a series of similar cases of women who are barren, then by the power of God, give birth to a son: Hagar/Gen. 16, Sarah/Gen. 18, Hannah/1 Sam. 1-2, the wife of Manoah/Jdg. 13, Isaiah/Isa. 7, and Zechariah/Lk. 1. Even more, the whole story of exalting the lowly is also anticipated throughout the Bible. Martin Luther said, “God is the kind of Lord who does nothing but exalt those of low degree and put down the mighty from their thrones, in short break what is whole and make whole what is broken.” The words of Mary inspire actions of helping and serving the whole person. The early church carried forward Jesus’ holistic mission of truth and deeds, not as Marxists, but as “messiahs.” They sacrificed themselves, did good deeds, shared wealth, established justice, and insisted that faith works.
Catechism – How does the Magnificat begin? “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”
Discussion – Why did Christ need to be born of a virgin?
Prayer – Our Father in heaven we give you thanks and praise for sending your son to us through Mary. We rejoice with the mother of our Lord and our souls magnify you, our Savior. Grant that in this season of Advent we remember joyfully your coming in the Incarnation, so that we may be ever prepared for your final coming to judge the living and the dead. In Jesus’ name, Amen.