‘Blessed are you amongst women’ Reflection for Advent 4

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. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Luke 1:39-45

2.4.Elizabeth_DARET_Jacques_Visitation

Picture the scene. Two women rush to hug each other. Both are partners with God in God’s story of salvation. Elizabeth is of priestly descent. Childless and now in old age, she is pregnant with a son, John. Her cousin Mary is a young woman. She too is expecting a baby. Six months after Elizabeth fell pregnant, scripture tells us that Mary conceived her child, Jesus, miraculously by the Holy Spirit. Both women lived and died and have a special place in what Miriam Therese Winter describes as ‘the memory of tradition.’ So often we don’t know the names of our mothers in faith. But here Elizabeth and Mary are both named and remembered. Their lives are turned upside down. Full of struggle and fear, they step forward in faith, trust in God’s fathomless love and change the shape of the world.

Elizabeth and Mary are ordinary women – sisters, daughters, nieces, mothers, cousins, wives, aunts and friends. They are just like we ordinary women – except for their particular mission. Elizabeth says ‘yes’ to God and comes to understand that she and John have secondary roles to play. Yet they are important roles in a story that points the way to God. Mary says ‘yes’ to God and grows in her understanding that she is the God-bearer, the mother of Emmanuel, God with Us.

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus this Christmas, what might God be asking us to do? Who might God be calling us to be?

Rev Canon Nikki Arthy, Rector

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