Luke 1: 39 – 45 Mary visits Elizabeth
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!’
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What a wonderful, joyful passage!
The angel who told Mary that she will give birth to Jesus also told her that her relative Elizabeth had conceived, and was in the sixth month of her pregnancy. As soon as possible (or, ‘At that time’ as St Luke puts it), Mary hurries to visit her. Elizabeth would not have known about the angel’s message to Mary, and Mary wouldn’t have been showing any signs of pregnancy. Despite this, as soon as Mary greets her, the Holy Spirit prompts Elizabeth to prophesy:
- She recognises and acknowledges Mary as being miraculously pregnant.
- She recognises and acknowledges that Mary’s child is even more special than her own, and refers to Mary as ‘The mother of my Lord’.
- She describes how her own baby had ‘leaped for joy’ in her womb.
- She speaks out a blessing on Mary that affirms the blessing spoken by the angel at the annunciation.
Elizabeth is not discreet. In verse 42, St Luke says, ‘In a loud voice she exclaimed’. She proclaimed the messages given to her by the Holy Spirit.
When was the last time I ‘proclaimed’ something that the Holy Spirit gave me to say? I’m not sure that I ever have. The most I’ve done is suggest, tentatively, that I feel I’m being led in a particular direction. And maybe, most of the time, that’s appropriate.
But is it appropriate all the time?
Sometimes a word of prophecy can change a life. I remember fifty years ago at university I had been to a service at which a bishop had preached. As I left, the bishop stopped me, shook hands, looked me straight in the eyes and asked, “Are you one of us?” I looked away and mumbled something like, “I’m thinking about it…”. “Don’t think too long,” he said. He released my hand and I walked away. I wasn’t aware at the time that I’d made a decision, but in retrospect that was the moment I chose to follow Jesus. And it was a word of prophecy that won me for him.
In writing this blog, I’m trying to be consciously aware of the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I’m finding that I need to show faith and obedience. If I feel that the Holy Spirit prompts me to do something, I have to have the faith to do it and see what happens.
Elizabeth spoke out in a loud voice. Her words may have been exactly what Mary needed to hear at that moment. And her words have been passed on through two millennia and still bring us joy today. How wonderful!
Thank you for speaking through your Holy Spirit. Thank you for this story of Mary and Elizabeth. Thank you that you sent Jesus as a human child to live among us. Thank you for the joy of knowing him.
In Jesus’ name, Amen