In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."
And Mary said,
"My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever." Luke 1:39-45(46-55)
The beauty of the Gospel of Luke is, for me, found in the first chapter. There is a labor of love going on as Luke recounts the birth of the Christ child. He wants to convey to us the particularity of the event, its unique context, and the pure beauty of the historicity of the moment. He wants us to know. He tells us at what moment these events take place. He defines relationships between the players and shows us how human they all are. He elevates those human beings who are playing such a significant role in the tale by allowing them to sing beautiful and elaborate canticles of praise that tell not only of God's action NOW, but also of God's steadfast activity in the past.
In Luke, it all makes sense. This young woman is going to give birth to a son, and her son will be the one whose life and very name give witness to the truth that "God Saves."
Such monumental and universe-inspiring things are happening, and yet somehow Luke manages to invite us into a close, family experience. It is awesome and intimate, all at once.
On top of all that, like the climactic phrase of a great symphony, comes an aria of grace sung by a young ingenue. Go back to the reading above, and read again Mary's words in response to Elizabeth's greeting. Place them in context. This girl is about to give birth, a girl who was probably just around 14 years old. She is full, of Spirit, of grace, of the wisdom that women find as they draw close to the moment of giving birth. She is full of a sort of authority that too often winds up being discounted by the world and the powers that be in it.
Her words give glory to God and articulate a testimony of humble submission to God's will. Her words display a sophisticated awareness of God's desire and love of the poor and lowly. Her insight reminds us that when we possess power, it is for the use of service and not for the expression of coercive might. She reminds us that we are ALL bound to each other as one human family descending through time. There is no Other. There is only Us, and to that Us comes the birth of her child. Her certainty in his role is born of a deep and profound faith, an understanding that God's mystery of interest in us does not fade through the eons and from our errancy....it only increases as the universe expands.
This young woman gets, understands, groks LOVE....and conveys that good news to us in these waning weeks of Advent.
Hers is the good news to share, and hers is the right to challenge us to become partners in that telling to the whole world.