Blessed is She
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.
Luke 1:39-45, (46-55)
December 17, 2021, Words By: Lina Thompson, Image By: Unknown
I love this week’s advent passage for all the ways it models healthy relationships. But it especially resonates with me because there are women at the center of it.
Advent is about the birth of Jesus, of course. But for me, the beauty of these verses is the way God uses Mary and Elizabeth, people who would have been marginalized by society because of their gender, to teach us all how to relate to each other with an attitude of abundance.
Just before this passage, Mary receives this word from an angel:
“Do not be afraid Mary, you have found favor with God — you will conceive and give birth to a son and you are to call him Jesus….even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age — and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.”
What comes next is pretty astounding if you ask me.
“At that time Mary got ready and hurried to see Elizabeth.”
The angel didn’t actually tell Mary to go to Elizabeth. Mary did that all on her own. She wasted no time. She packed her bags “in haste” and went to Judea to see Elizabeth. I’d like to think that Mary knew that if there was anyone who could relate to what she was experiencing, it was Elizabeth. Here Mary was, pregnant with God’s son. Who would believe her? Where could she go? Though she was courageous enough to be part of this plan, I’m certain it was scary. I bet she needed a place, a safe place, to work things out.
If there was anyone that Mary could talk with, hang out with, be safe and learn from, maybe it was Elizabeth. Mind you, Elizabeth was probably going through her own community drama — being a woman who was well past the age of bearing children.
What we have here are two women just trying to make sense of it all. Mary stayed for 3 months — the last trimester of Elizabeth’s pregnancy and the first trimester of her own.
That first meeting together was beautiful: words of blessing and praise; words of empowerment and acknowledgement; words of wonder and affirmation. In those three months, I imagine there were probably many times they reminded each other of this: “No, you are not crazy. This is really happening. This is bigger than us.”
How many times have I needed to be reminded, by my own female friends, sisters and mentors, “You are not crazy!”
How many times have I needed to be given, not only a safe emotional space, but a safe physical space, to just be, while I prayed and talked things out with a trusted sister?
How many times have I needed, or provided, a place to just laugh. I’m sure that in three months, these two had many laughs.
This story of the Messiah could have easily been told without lifting up the relationship between Elizabeth and Mary. But God determined differently. In a world that often seeds rivalry between women around issues of power, “favor” and identity, Mary and Elizabeth show all of us, regardless of gender, a different way. One that is about encouraging, recognizing, lifting up, protecting, nurturing the divine that dwells within each and every one of us. In other words, they show us how to see each other through God’s eyes.
That’s not always easy to do, especially in a world that teaches us we are in competition with each other for what is good in life. But Mary and Elizabeth, from the safety of their friendship, model a way of relating centered on God’s abundance. They don’t fight each other, they affirm. They don’t blame each other, they bless. They don’t dismiss each other, they listen.
We all need places like this in our lives, don’t we? The spaces where others recognize the divine presence within us, and our eyes are opened to God’s presence in others. Those are the places that provide clarity, and help us resist the lies of scarcity that cloud our vision and diminish our humanity.
In this Advent season, may we be like Mary and Elizabeth — creating a world that can nurture a way of seeing the divine in one another and calling forth blessing and praise.
Dwelling Among Us
In this week’s text, we have two pregnant women — one to old to be having a child and the other scandalously unmarried. Yet, against all odds, they join in a holy and hopeful duet in light of the new life that was to come. What would it mean for us this Advent season to receive and affirm this scandalous mother and her hopeful song as Elizabeth received Mary?