The Bigger Picture

Luke 1: 39-56
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 favored, 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 what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”

And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers.”

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

After hearing the angel’s announcement, Mary rushes to see Elizabeth, the other woman with a miraculous child – a child longed for, given up on. Knowing she is carrying a child totally unexpected. It was not an answer to a longing (not more, at least, than the vague stirrings of maternal feelings in a young girl’s heart). But it seems to me natural that Mary should go to Elizabeth. Someone who will understand.

Indeed, Elizabeth does understand. And not merely from her own experience and sympathies, but from the Holy Spirit which filled her when Mary entered her home and greeted her. She KNEW what Mary carried in her womb, and was filled with beautiful, God inspired delight. Simultaneously the baby she carried leaped within her. The words she spoke, Luke implies, were Spirit-inspired words as well as her own pleasure. Indeed she addresses Mary as ‘mother of MY LORD’. She understands the significance of this new life. With a ringing cry she exclaims: ‘Blessed is she who believes what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!’ It is a glad cry, a beautiful truth.

And then we hear Mary’s response. Mary’s song.

This is an unmarried teenager who is pregnant in a society which would not accept that.This is a child-woman who has much to learn about life.This is a girl who has seen an angel.
And this is the one who has believed.

Her song starts with the personal – look what God has done for me!! There is no anxiety in her song. No worrying about how to do it all, how to explain it all. No recognition of any kind of disgrace. Because Mary KNOWS. She knows that this is what God has done. And when we know that God is part of something, however strange it may be, however ‘unacceptable’ in the eyes of others, that knowledge brings us joy. She has great faith, this Mary, this girl. She sees the bigger picture.

Then her songs widens to include that ancient hope of Israel’s redemption. The promise of mercy. Of justice, of help. Of ‘God with us’ once more. Amid all the darkness, the sorrows, the difficulties of life: the bigger, bigger picture.

This child contains all their hope. Fast forward, years later, to a dusty road where two dejected disciples walk towards Emmaus. ‘We had hoped he was the one who was going to redeem Israel,’ they whisper, to the one who met them on the road. (Luke 24:21)
This child contains all their hope. And ours. In spite of the darkness we so often encounter. In spite of the heartache in my life and yours. In spite of apparent hopelessness, he is our hope.

Blessed is she who believes that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.

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