When the angel came to Mary and told her that she had found favor with God and so will conceive and bear a son she was understandably a little confused. As Gabriel then explains how this will happen by the power of the Holy Spirit he uses as an example her relative Elizabeth. Elizabeth was advanced in years, she was barren, she had no children and she was well beyond child bearing days, yet the angel tells Mary that Elizabeth is in the sixth month of a pregnancy with a son, for nothing is impossible with God.
So Mary, having heard the great Word of what God was now doing in her life went out to see Elizabeth. Now what unfolds is simply amazing. Mary, a young nobody from the backwater town of Nazareth, a girl without power and prestige, a girl that the rest of the world would happily ignore goes to see Elizabeth. And though Elizabeth’s husband was a priest, it wasn’t like he was some sort of great mover and shaker of social note. In fact Elizabeth hid herself away during most of her pregnancy. She was considered by society as just an old lady who could not provide a legacy for her husband, no name to pass on. And yet when these two lowly ladies meet we are told of an incredible exchange. For when the sound of Mary voice reaches Elizabeth the child she carries leaps in her womb. The Spirit of God works even through their unborn children as Elizabeth says, “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?” (Luke 1:42-43)
Now this is where our story is often twisted and changed into something other than what it is. When Elizabeth calls Mary the Mother of her Lord, the bearer of God, it sends our sinful hearts flying. For the reality begins to set in. God will enter into our story through humble and lowly means. He is coming not through power and prestige but in a way that is so underserving of such an event. And so we want to add things to the text make Marry and Elizabeth out to be super sheep, people that are better than everyone else, deserving of such glory and honor. People have actually gone so far as to argue for the immaculate conception of Marry herself, so that she was some sort of pure and holy vessel to be the God-bearer. But all this perverts the majesty of what is right before our eyes.
God has tuned it all over on its head, he has come under the form of opposites, he has come as the little guy, and he will not play to the sinful desires of men’s hearts. Mary is blessed by God, not because of some quality of her life beyond the rest of us sinners but because she believed, she had faith. Elizabeth says to her, “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Luke 1:45). She believed the Word of God and so by faith alone she is blessed among women. Faith then is not bound to the measures of power and prestige of our world and it is by faith that God does his great work in this world.
And so Mary sings, she sings of song of incredible beauty and power, a song about the great upheaval of God’s work. She sings of his great deeds, she sings, “He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.” This song of Mary prepares us for the story that will unfold, a story that will be offensive to the powers of their day. What is happening in her life is just the beginning. For it is an unfolding story of God’s great acts done under the form of opposites. Glory through punishment, life through death, hope in the midst of darkness.
And it is this song that the church sings even today. The blessings given to Mary by faith are the blessings delivered to each and every one of you. Not because of some great quality of your character but because of the faith which has been given. And our God still works under the form of opposites. He still comes to us though we are lowly; he comes to us through humble means though we do not deserve it. He comes in water and Word, he comes in with and under bread and wine, he comes to forgive and love and embrace you as his brothers and sisters. He doesn’t wait for you to make something of yourself, he doesn’t wait for you to straighten out the difficulties in your life, he doesn’t wait for you to get on the straight and narrow – comes to you in your lowliness, in your brokenness, in your sins and he loves you right here, embraces you right now and he forgives you all your sins.