Luke is often my favorite storyteller in the Gospels. I like how he brings in certain stories, what he chooses to include or where he places focus. I’m glad he tells us this part of Mary’s story with Elizabeth in the way he does. Luke 1:39-56, feels like sisterhood to me.
“. . .she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
We’re told these two women are related, likely distant cousins, but they had a relationship with each other that included friendship, guidance, support and love. This young girl and this woman “well along in years” found the kind of connection that drove them toward each other when big things happened. It had to feel like such a gift for Mary when dear Elizabeth called her “blessed” in the midst of what felt confusing and scary. Mary “hurried” to her side to share in this joy of motherhood and God-breathed miracles because they could lean on each other, and Elizabeth’s own baby began the celebration by leaping for joy. I’ve always hoped there was a lot of laughter and tears in that visit. Aren’t the best times with our sisters full of laughter and tears? Everything that is both good and troublesome comes pouring out when we gather, so we can sort out the madness and find our way forward together.
“. . .My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. . .”
I know lots of people stumble over this moment as Mary replies in song. We brush it away as Luke’s storytelling, because surely it didn’t actually happen this way. I hope that isn’t true. I hope Mary sang from the joy and gratitude of her heart in the presence of her precious friend and relative because my family is that weird. Sometimes I need to know our weirdness has an older place in the world. We sing to each other. It’s rare, and almost never our own newly inspired lyrics, but it’s a way we communicate because song often captures emotion better than sentences. When the people I love are overflowing with what God is doing or what is happening in our world, we take to poetry and verse. We let music bridge the gaps our voices can’t.
I totally get Mary in this moment, and I love that history has immortalized her words for worship. Just as she walks ahead of our waiting to receive the coming King. She opens the door for vulnerability regarding the complexities of His coming, too. There is so much to thank God for in the moment of knowing we are called “blessed,” and there are also so many questions. Mary takes up the role of worship leader and draws us to the presence inside her. She brings forth the One who will lead us down many roads in life, and takes the lead herself.
“And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.”
Then the story ends with long visits and goodbyes. Isn’t that the way of sisterhood? We stay longer than we planned if needed. We see our dear ones through to the next step if possible and then we go on about the other parts of our lives—a little emptier and a little fuller all at the same time. Elizabeth’s seclusion in the early part of her pregnancy must have made this time so much sweeter for them. Darling Mary, while facing her own very big life upheavals, stays for three months. She stays with Elizabeth. This passage doesn’t tell us whether Mary stayed through the time of Elizabeth’s labor or not. The story is not simply about the babies in their wombs. This passage paints a picture of two women who seek each other out when God speaks into their lives. They spent time with each other, in the presence of God, when they needed it most. Mary’s choice to travel at this point in the story helps me remember to seek out my sisters when God is speaking. She guides me toward maintaining relationships that matter instead of pulling away when life is a little too big. I’m so grateful to call her a sister in the way that all women link arms and lean on each other.
Dana Spivy Children`s Minister Maury Hills Church Columbia, TN