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 leapt 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 leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’ (NRSV)
Mary’s visit to Elizabeth is a trip with purpose. We are informed that it was made ‘with great haste’ and follows immediately after Mary’s encounter with Gabriel. After proclaiming her willingness to be God’s servant, Mary seeks the shelter of one who just may comprehend.
Elizabeth, with her own miraculous conception, is as close as Mary will get to someone who can understand the magnitude of the events that have, and are, occurring ‘in’ her. Mary’s first response is to seek solidarity.
Sometimes even the call of angels needs the reinforcement of a human touch.
Mary is greeted with a generosity beyond all expectation and hope. At her very presence and that of the unborn Jesus, John responds physically and Elizabeth herself is ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’. God is affirming, present, and at work.
It all signals a blessing Elizabeth can not but return. With the confidence of age and experience she unselfconsciously reveals the strange occurrences within her womb. In her blessing, Elizabeth is the first to name Mary as ‘mother’ and Jesus as ‘Lord’.
What strange mix of hope, excitement, and wonder must be in this newly expectant, God-ordained teenager?
Elizabeth is obviously pleased this young woman has chosen to come. And so is John. With a sensitivity that only a mother can understand, Elizabeth names her son’s emotional response to this favoured arrival. John’s is a leap of ‘joy’.
Yes, God, unhindered by stage of life, is moving in both the old and the very, very young. And Mary is right in the middle of it all.
Our story has all the hallmarks of the excitement of feeling the first kick. Perhaps Luke really did interview Mary before he wrote. What else could enable such an insider perspective? It is so intimate, private, personal. One almost feels the need to turn away from something we were never supposed to see.
Elizabeth summed it up well: ‘…blessed is she who believed…’