In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “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? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And 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 mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.
Apart from some rather cheesy multiple choice questions and that dreaded lingering feeling that you might, at any moment, be asked up front to demonstrate, our one and only pregnancy class at Antrim Area Hospital wasn’t that bad! Much better than the mental images you conjure up before hand of lying on the floor, propping up your wife (or someone else’s wife/partner!), while listening to the “this is what you must do or you aren’t a good husband” talk. However, one thing that was predictable was the fact that everyone was talking about the anticipated baby in the womb (note: not the anticipated foetus. Anticipation has the wonderful ability to shatter much scientific theory. I digress!):
“When are you due?”
“8th June!! You are looking well for that.”
“How have you been?”
“Fine, just some sickness at the start, but that’s to be expected”
“How have you been?”
“Hmm, I can’t wait for it to be over!”
“Have you any names yet?” (O, the boldness!)
“We can’t decide” (mildly offended because of the question!)
And so it went.
Now, imagine this excitement and anticipation, but multiply it by 1,000 and you get somewhere near to what Mary & Elizabeth were experiencing in the 1st century.
With the angel’s ‘God-possible’ announcement (Luke 1:37) that both she and her cousin were pregnant, Mary “hurried” (Luke 1:39 NIV) around 100 miles from Nazareth to “somewhere outside of Jerusalem” (Darrell Bock, Luke: NIV Application Commentary).
A little like our pregnancy class, I’m sure the Aramaic language was being put through its paces as the questions flowed & as joy overflowed. Even the unborn John got in on the action! However, one question was asked that you never hear:
“Why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43 NIV).
Something special was happening. Something that caused the baby John in the belly of Elizabeth to “leap for joy” (Luke 1:44 ESV). This was something different to the in-utero gymnastics that he was performing by now. Mother & child recognised that they were in the company of not only Mary, the faithful servant of the Lord, but the Lord (kurio) himself!
How did Mary respond to Elizabeth’s Holy Spirit inspired joyfulness? You know those awkward situations when someone praises you & you don’t know what to do or say? Well, she sang (Luke 1:46-55). A song that showed off her grace enabled humility, commonly known as the Song of Mary, or the Magnificat.
This was a song steeped in the Old Testament.
Not only does Mary employ “quotes from and allusions to the psalms” but “the Magnificat’s closest parallel is Hannah’s song of thanksgiving in 1 Sam. 2:1-10” (Craig A. Evans, Luke: New International Biblical Commentary). In both these songs we have expectant mothers full of praise, and children destined for Gods service. Scattered throughout them we have allusions of a deliverer, a King, the anointed one, the Messiah. Promises of lowly exaltation, and descendants.
The parallels are remarkable!
Three expectant mothers.
Three children destined for Gods service.
But only one Saviour.
You see, although the anticipation of the mothers was clearly apparent, a greater anticipation jumps out from this passage in Luke.
The anticipation of a thousand ages, the anticipation of the Messiah, a friend of sinners, who was God, the Lord, the anticipation of a King who would rule forever over all the nations.
And here he was, the baby in the belly of Mary.
Samuel would foreshadow him, and John would run before him and proclaim him as the “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
Our sin bearer and High King was the long anticipated one.
Surely a song is the only appropriate response!
No wonder Mary stayed with Elizabeth until she was about to pop. She probably couldn’t get away!
The night we left our one and only pregnancy class at the Antrim Area Hospital I was filled with relief (as were all the other men!) but also with deep, joyful anticipation. We walked away, anticipating our wee Devy, who arrived on the 20th of June, to our delight!
In the days to come during this season of advent, and in this series, as we anticipate our Saviour’s birth and consider the events surrounding his arrival in the world please join with us in praying for a deep, joyful anticipation and, like Mary, sing, sing, sing!!