Meditations on the Reality of Christmas: 8. Sequence starts with one act
Lk 1:36,37 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”
You may gather we are not following a chronological sequence but are merely picking up key lessons about the reality of what happened at that time of Jesus’ birth, the first Christmas. So the angel Gabriel comes to Mary and tells her she will carry a son to be called Jesus (see Lk 1:26-38) When she asks how this can come about he explains, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God..” (1:35) He also speaks about Elizabeth as in our verses above. Mary’s response is, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” She accepts and agrees to God’s will for her.
Now what wasn’t made clear in that conversation was that not only would she conceive by the Holy Spirit, but she would also start to move on a completely different plane. Up until then she had been a simple Jewish girl who probably attended synagogue with her family regularly; now watch what happens.
First, “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.” (v.39,40) i.e. she went and visited Elizabeth. These two women were years apart. Mary was probably in her early teens and Elizabeth was in old age, which may have been sixty plus. But they are cousins and clearly relate well together. Whether it is God’s words through the angel or the prompting of the Holy Spirit, we don’t know, but she hurries off to see Elizabeth. Why? Maybe the story of Zechariah and his angel has gone through the family and it seems only right that she goes and shares with them her angel story. Indeed both women are pregnant by miraculous means and perhaps Mary wants to be able to talk to someone who has had a similar experience and receive reassurance from her cousin.
She goes and when she arrives, there is a Holy Spirit recognition of who she is: “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!” (1:41,42) Elizabeth was filled with the Spirit and speaks out a prophetic word of knowledge. She knows Mary is pregnant and she knows who it is she is carrying. What a beautiful affirmation for Mary as she walks through the door. She had wanted encouragement and got it the moment she walked in.
But it didn’t end there. “And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (1:46,47) Read through verses 46 to 55 and you find a spectacular declaration, now sometimes called the Ave Maria or Angelic Salutation. It is unquestionably more than a prayer, it is prophecy, declaring the glory of the Lord and it comes pouring out of her, clearly an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Both these women are moving in a new Holy Spirit supernatural dimension. There is a sequence of events here – acceptance, going to see Elizabeth, greeting, Elizabeth speaking God’s revelation, Mary prophesying the glory of the Lord – and they all occur because God nudged and people responded.
I have said before I love the story of Moses at the burning bush, but if he had not bothered to stop and look, the Exodus story would not have followed. Simple actions, simple agreements, amazing outworkings. There are many stories like this in the Bible. One little matter of guidance leads to big things. Can we perhaps pray today, “Lord, please open my ears and my mind to hear your prompting that I may step out to do your bidding”? It may not be an enormous thing, it may be quite small and simple, but one thing leads to another. You wonder, perhaps, why you haven’t been filled with the Spirit when you asked? Maybe because the Lord is waiting to hear in some other small issue, your words, “Yes, Lord.”