(watch here: https://youtu.be/0NRDOfuMzLU)
39In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’
46And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.’
Perhaps you’ve heard the one about a woman who takes her 16-year-old daughter to the doctor. The doctor says, “Okay, Mrs. Jones, what’s the problem?” The mother responds, “It’s my daughter Darla. She keeps getting these cravings, she’s putting on weight and is sick most mornings.”
The doctor gives Darla a good examination then turns to the mother and says, “Well, I don’t know how to tell you this but your Darla is pregnant. About 4 months would be my guess.” The mother says, “Pregnant?! She can’t be, she has never ever been left alone with a man! Have you Darla?” Darla says, “No mother! I’ve never even kissed a man!” The doctor walked over to the window and just stares out it. About five minutes pass and finally the mother says, “Is there something wrong out there doctor?”
The doctor replies, “No, not really, it’s just that the last time anything like this happened, a star appeared in the east and three wise men came over the hill. I’ll be darned if I’m going to miss it this time!”
I suppose many, if not most, pregnant teenagers try to play dumb when sharing the news with their parents. A teenage mind is a beautiful thing to behold! I can’t wait until all three of my little ones firmly plant themselves in that wonderful decade. For those of us who are adults, we know what to expect from teenagers. After all, we were teenagers once so we know firsthand how the teenager mind works. We know that a teenager will deny all possible culpability, even to the point of irrationality…“I don’t know how I got pregnant!” Which makes Mary’s continuous reactions to her pregnancy all the more unique. Unlike all the other pregnant teenagers throughout all of history, she actually could claim ignorance. She truly didn’t know how she got pregnant. But lucky for her she didn’t really have to claim her ignorance. Recall that the angel, Gabriel, had come to her and told her she was pregnant with the Son of the Most High. No doctor told her but an angel of God! There was no need to explain how it was possible because with God all things are possible. Sure, there were plenty of nonbelievers around her who didn’t consider that a viable explanation for her pregnancy but for believers it was and is certainly viable. It doesn’t matter how she was pregnant if God was involved! Remember how Mary herself responded to Gabriel? “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” No disbelief, no arguing, no bugging the angel to explain, just simple recognition and acceptance of responsibility. Mary put to use the wisdom of Proverbs: “To make an apt answer is a joy to anyone, and a word in season, how good it is!” (15:23)
What a joy she must felt from this encounter with Gabriel! It compelled her to immediately visit her cousin, Elizabeth, and share the news. Our reading for this morning takes us on that journey and we hear of yet another unusual response to Mary’s pregnancy. Elizabeth felt the leap of her own child, John, within her and was “filled with the Holy Spirit.” She cried out, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Again, not your typical response from a relative; more typical would have been suspicion or judgment. But she can’t help but praise God’s work at hand. Elizabeth (and John!) couldn’t care less how Mary was pregnant, she simply wanted to lift up shouts of praise and thanksgiving. Mary further expands on her cousin’s joy with her own “Magnificat,” or song of praise. Both women, in their own way, chose to respond to God’s mysterious ways with joy and anticipation, much like the good doctor in that opening illustration.
God chose Mary to be the mother of his Son because He knew of her ability to remain joyful. He knew that she wouldn’t be afraid of what others might think of her teenage pregnancy. He knew that she wouldn’t shirk her responsibility of mothering his only begotten Son. He knew that her joy would be a witness for all. Mary’s sheer joy of her title and responsibility is what makes her a truly inspirational character in all of Scripture. No other character comes close in remaining joyful. David gave us many psalms of praise and thanksgiving but he also gave us many of woe and despair. Abraham, Moses, Noah…they all accepted and honored their God-appointed duties but none of them experienced the same joy as Mary. Perhaps it was the joy of Jesus within her that was shining forth. Perhaps it was joy of all mothers simply magnified tenfold. Regardless, her joy was unlike that of any other character and we must recognize it for how truly special it was.
We need joy if we are to fully experience this season. It’s far too easy to get lost in fulfilling all the expectations—the cooking, the hosting, the traveling, the shopping, the cleaning, the wrapping, the caroling, the exchanging of gifts, the feasting, and any number of other traditions. It’s easy to lose sight of what the season is meant to do—produce joy. This is a season of joy, nothing more, nothing less. Our God is coming to us as a ray of hope and promise. Our God is coming into our dark and sinful world and giving us an alternative way of living. Our God is coming to bring us joy. Whatever we do that takes away from that joy needs to stop. Mary sang, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” She was filled with joy over the coming of Christ and wanted nothing more than to share that joy with others. James writes in his letter, “my brother and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (1:2-3) We all face trials in life but we can choose to regard them with joy if we but heed the wisdom of James. And Peter adds, “although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9) Mary couldn’t see who was in her yet she was filled with joy nevertheless. Christ is within us, too, and we should also rejoice.
As we close out this Advent season and head into the Christmas season, let us be mindful of remaining joyful and sharing joy with others. This is a wonderful season—God has come to us and walks among us! What an amazing gift! Let us be glad for the words of Paul in his letter to the Romans: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (15:13)
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.