Visitation of the BVM Luke 1: 39-45
We all know that children love taking part in a Nativity play at Christmas which tells the story of the birth of Jesus.
The play always seams to start with the Angel Gabriel visiting Mary and then seams to jump to an Inn and a stable in Bethlehem and the birth of the baby Jesus?
It always seams that the Christmas story has been edited as there is a gap between these two great events, yet the Bible does tell us something of what happened to Mary during this period.
In today’s seconded Lesson we find out what that something was.
Mary had been told by the Angel Gabriel that She was going to have God’s Son, an a counter with an angel and being told you are going to have God Son must have been the most earth-shaking experience in the world for a young girl.
It was such an event for Mary that nothing was to surpass it for a number of years, Mary just had to go and tell someone what had happened, so She went to see Her cousin, Elizabeth.
Mary’s journey into the Judean hill country was probably no leisurely stroll along a country road.
The mountainous terrain of the area that Mary must have travelled did have a certain rugged beauty: desert yellows, a glimpse of the Dead Sea, violet-red mountains, and perhaps a few groves of fruit trees grown on terraced slopes.
One main north-south road linked the region’s principal cities—Jerusalem to the north, Bethlehem, and Hebron to the south.
Beyond that, the hill country was rather bleak. The eastern slopes were mostly impassable desert, stretching 10 to 15 miles from their highest point, 3,000 feet near Hebron, down to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth at 1,300 feet below sea level
The vast wasteland was broken only by imposing cliffs and canyons and a few forts and oases.
It was an area fit for fugitives, rebels, and hermits certainly not for a pregnant woman like Mary.
But it is through this type of terrain that Mary would properly have travelled to see her cousin Elizabeth.
Elizabeth is described by Luke as a woman of integrity and obedience (Luke 1:6).
As both the daughter and wife of a priest (v. 5), Elizabeth lived a righteous life, even though she carried a quiet sorrow in her heart because she was childless, but a similar miracle had also occurred to Elizabeth a short while before the one that had occurred to Mary.
Elizabeth husband Zacharias, who served in the temple at Jerusalem, was the first person in four hundred years to receive a direct word from God.
This happened while he was burning incense in the Temple; an angel appeared to him to announce that his wife Elizabeth would have a child who will be named John (v. 13).
Mary had to tell someone about her experience so She probably couldn’t wait to share what had happened with her cousin Elizabeth who also had had a similar experience a short time earlier.
You can just imagine Elizabeth’s response when Mary starts to tell her, that She is going to have God’s Son a short while after Elizabeth herself is to give birth to a son.
“Tell me all about it.
Then what did the Angel Gabriel say?
And what did you say?”
You can just image how they recounted to each other what the Angel Gabriel had said to them and after a while they would have properly started to begin to see what God had started to do.
By talking to each other it mast have became clearer for Mary & Elizabeth to understand what part they were playing in God great plan.
We do not always understand how much we need each other to share the watershed moments of our lives.
To be a Christian is to believe in a God who is the God of the impossible as well as the possible, and to belong to a family who are always there when we need them the most, like Elizabeth was for Mary.
We are all members of that family, as the Church is that family.
Because we belong to this great family of faith, we have someone to go to who will listen to us, when great joy or sorrow overwhelms us.
It was with Elizabeth, whom Mary wanted to share Her overwhelming news with, as she had certain qualities.
First of all, Elizabeth was not jealous of Mary as she had also had a visit from the Angel Gabriel and Elizabeth herself was now bearing a child.
But when Elizabeth heard Mary’s good news, she acknowledged that the child Mary was carrying was to be even greater then the child she was carrying and rejoiced at the fact.
Even Elizabeth’s unborn child John, who was to be the last of the great prophets acknowledged that the unborn child that Mary was carrying was to be greater them him.
Mary’s coming to Elizabeth’s had brought a reaction not only from herself but also from the unborn John in Elizabeth’s womb.
John, the Messiah’s forerunner had given testimony to the Messiah even before He was born.
The angel had predicted to Zacharias that John his baby would be filled with the Holy Spirit even from the womb (v. 15).
Elizabeth was also able to affirm the experience that Mary had had, help her and encourage her.
Elizabeth was not in the least skeptical about the whole situation as she said,
“And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (45)
When God speaks to us we sometimes need a friend, who will say,
“Yes, I believe that was authentic.
Yes, I believe God is speaking to you.”
Mary stayed at Elizabeth’s home for three months, until John was born.
What else would a kinswoman and a friend do two thousand years ago but stay and help until the child was born?
I would like to try and speculate on what Elizabeth and Mary talked about during those three months, angels, babies, God, Israel and the world, what ever it was they were giving each other support.
We all need a friend like Mary had in Elizabeth to share our joy and sadness with and we have that friend in each other as members of the family of Jesus Christ.