Welcome to Wine and the Word Wednesday! The fall season is continuing to progress. I’ve seen the first bit of gold and orange colour showing up on trees and bushes. There’s a definite chill in the air in the mornings and the evenings are cool enough that a sweater feels pretty good. Tim made a wonderful West African stew with chicken, veggies and ground nuts that is perfect for this time of year. We’re home from rehearsal (a community theatre production of “Jesus Christ Superstar”) and it’s time to wind down for the evening with a glass of wine and more from Luke. My wine this evening is Tim’s tasty dry rosé.
Tonight I’m reading verses 39 through 56 of chapter 1 of Luke. What immediately stands out to me is that Luke tells this story from the perspective of two women. This is really amazing for an era in which women were generally only referenced in relation to the men in their lives. In the previous section the angel told Mary that she is going to have a baby who is going to grow up to become the saviour of his people. Mary accepts this amazing declaration and merely asks how this will happen since she’s never had sex. This simple acceptance of God’s plan continues through her next actions. Luke says that Mary immediately made her way to Elizabeth. The sign the angel had given her that his message was from God was that her relative Elizabeth was now pregnant, even though Elizabeth was barren and too old to have children. Joyous acceptance of God’s word inspires Mary to hurry to Elizabeth. The result is she receives the gift of someone to share her joy.
Travel in that era wasn’t undertaken lightly. The journey from Nazareth to the hill town where Elizabeth and Zacharias lived would have taken several days. Bandits were not uncommon in the more isolated sections of the route. There is no record that Joseph or her family accompanied her, perhaps they did, we don’t know. What stands out to me is how deliberate Mary’s actions are.
The next thing I notice is the overwhelming joy that Mary and Elizabeth, and even John in his mother’s womb, experience together. The unborn John “leaps” in the womb. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and greets Mary ecstatically. Some versions record Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary as a poetic song. Mary responds with one of the most famous poetic songs in the bible, called The Magnificat. The name comes from the Latin translation of verse 46. The way my mind works, I get a mental image of a musical production or opera, with Mary and Elizabeth singing back and forth to one another.
Mary’s song shares many phrases with Hannah’s song (recorded in the second chapter of 1 Samuel), as well as a number of Psalms. She is praising God for His faithfulness and His mercy. She describes the mighty deeds He’s done on behalf of the humble and the hungry. This paints a picture for me of someone who has pursued relationship with God by studying the experiences of those who came before her and the record of their interactions with Him. I also see Mary drawing on everything she’s come to know and understand about God to compose her poetic song of praise to Him.
After she concludes the song, Luke tells us that Mary stayed with Elizabeth for another three months before returning home. Since Elizabeth was about six months pregnant when Mary arrived, it’s likely Mary was present for the joy-filled event of the birth of John the Baptist. I can only imagine what those three months must have been like as both women experienced the very tangible evidence in their bodies of the promises of God being fulfilled. Wow.
So what can I learn from the story of these two women that helps me better understand and know God, and reflect His image? One thing I see here is that studying the experiences of other Christ followers deepens my relationship with God and helps me learn how to praise Him. Another example I see is that believing God’s word is good, but acting on His word without hesitation is even better. (This is a theme that is repeated in many places in the bible.) Finally, seeing the experience of Mary and Elizabeth encourages me to find other Christ followers who are committed to the ways of God and share life with them. The result will be greater joy for all of us.
That’s all for tonight. Hope you enjoy the rest of your evening!