The various prophetic declarations regarding the birth of Jesus that Luke records in his gospel are often considered minor parts of his telling of the nativity story. But it is within these words that Luke communicates the gospel most clearly. Each song or exultation is actually a Holy Spirit inspired prophecy. Each character who prophesies is filled with joy as they suddenly realise what God is up to and they cannot help but celebrate and sing about it. Over the next few weeks we will consider each of these joyful, prophetic outbursts in turn and the example it sets for us as believers today.
"At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her!" Luke 1:39-45
I find this brief anecdote delightful and fascinating! Mary rocks up at Elizabeth’s house and before they’ve gotten further than “hello” John the not-yet-born-but-will-grow-up-to-be Baptist starts doing a joyful jig. As he does so Elizabeth, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, suddenly realises and starts shouting about Mary’s new status as the Mother of God! I don’t know about you, but if I’d been Mary, I’d have been looking forward to sharing the big news myself and would have been a little put-out to not get a chance to make the big reveal! But despite her cosmic-sized thunder stealing what Elizabeth does for Mary under the inspiration of the Spirit is beautiful.
First, Elizabeth sees in Mary something which Mary has barely begun to see in herself. She had only just been told what was to happen to her by Gabriel, and taken her first tentative steps towards her new call. Right at the start of her journey Elizabeth recognises and affirms the call of God on Mary’s life.
Second, Elizabeth sees that Mary is doing her best to press into that call: “Blessed is she who has believed…” (v45) Although at this point Mary has done little more than agree to God’s call (v38) Elizabeth is quick to encourage her right at the initiation of her faith, affirming that she was doing the right thing by simply believing.
Third, Elizabeth - the older, wiser and culturally the more important and honourable of the two, postures herself in support and deference to Mary (v43). Elizabeth wasn’t bothered to point out that she had her own big-deal prophetic pregnancy thing going on. Or overly caught up in the distraction of her husband suddenly being mute. She wasn’t interested in competing with or patronising Mary. She was perfectly content to humble herself and in that moment put aside her own life, stresses and ego for the sake of the young, naive and probably overwhelmed girl in front of her.
Bearing all this in mind my question is simple:
Don’t you want someone like Elizabeth in your life. Or, better yet, don’t you want to be someone like Elizabeth for somebody else?
The role of good student workers and even, more simply, good Christian friends is to see in one another what God is up to and affirm each other in it; to encourage one another in the steps of faith we take however small or simple; to lay down our own lives, stresses and ego’s to make room for supporting others, in the knowledge that their fruitfulness is our fruitfulness.
So this week...
Consider how you can press into the joy of what God is up to by declaring and celebrating it. As term draws to an end why not prayerfully ask the Spirit to reveal to you who you need to be affirming, encouraging, and honouring above yourself. Ask God what he is up to and consider how you can get on board with that with your words and posture.
Image from the British Library's Digital Collections