Draw Near to One Another

Weekly Bible Devotional

“Draw Near to One Another”

December 20, 2020

 

Scripture for Sunday: Luke 1:39-45

39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

Notes on the Text:

The Gospel of Luke has a unique presentation of the birth stories of Jesus. None of the other Gospels tell us about the promised birth of John 1:5–25, the announcement of Jesus’ birth to Mary 1:26–38, Mary’s visit to Elizabeth 1:39–56, the birth of John the Baptist 1:57–80, the birth of Jesus (with shepherds and manger) 2:1-20, and Jesus’ presentation in temple 2:21–38. Luke tries to connect the story of Jesus to the people of ancient Israel through the stories of some of the ancestors. The stories of Elizabeth and Zechariah echo the stories of Abraham and Sarah and their struggle to have children.

Our story for this week is an affirmation of Mary’s pregnancy. When Mary gets the news of her pregnancy, the Gospel of Luke tells us that she goes to visit her relative/cousin Elizabeth for three months. This would have been a long journey of about 80 miles. One would not take that kind of journey lightly. Mary spends the first three months of her pregnancy with Elizabeth. We know that the first three months are the most critical in any pregnancy. Without the support of Elizabeth, Mary could not have made it through this challenge in her life. Her ability to carry out the mission of her life depended on Elizabeth’s support and mentoring of her.  Elizabeth was the best support Mary could have had. We know this from the story of Elizabeth herself and from the greeting she gave Mary when she first saw her.

Elizabeth knew about faith, life, and brokenness in her life. She was unable to get pregnant for many years and struggled with the shame of that in her community. She was especially ashamed as she was the wife of a priest. Infertility would have been seen as a sign of God’s punishment. Her shame was great. Yet, her faith was even greater. As the wife of a priest, Elizabeth certainly would have had a long life of prayer. In fact, just before we are told about Mary’s pregnancy, we are told about Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah and their mystical experience of a divine messenger. This made Elizabeth ready to believe Mary and to validate her vision of God. She saw in the brokenness of Mary the very Spirit of God.

For Reflection:

None of us can make it on our own in life. We need others and others need us, especially when it comes to the spiritual journey. That is how God designed the world and that is what helps us find fulfilment in life. We need people to walk alongside us on this journey of life; people who can challenge, support, and guide us along the way. We need people like Elizabeth in our lives and we need to be like Elizabeth for the Marys of the world. We need others who see the light of God in us, affirm it, and help us to share it with the world. Drawing close to each other’s souls is not about being perfect or about presenting our best selves to others. It is about knowing and seeing the divine in each other, especially in those places of deep brokenness.

What if the next time someone you care about does something mean or something you disapprove of, you tried to see the light of the divine in them and tried to help them see that too?  What if you pondered this question with them: Where is God needing to be born in and through you in this moment? What if you were having a hard time and you went to a trusted friend and asked them to help you ponder the same question? What if we started looking around us at the people of our lives and saw them as God bearers? What if all others need for their shame and brokenness to be transformed is our blessing?

From the Artist: Lauren Wright Pittman

Mary and Elizabeth affirm, comfort, and support one another in the unexpected, strange circumstances of their pregnancies. Elizabeth instantly recognizes that Mary is pregnant and is filled to the brim with the Holy Spirit, so much so that she exclaims that Mary is blessed among women and the mother of the Lord. What an amazingly confident and prophetic statement she makes. It is unclear, exactly, of the reason for Mary’s visiting Elizabeth. She may have been seeking comfort or community, or she may have been wanting to offer comfort to Elizabeth. Whatever her intentions, it is clear that Mary is emboldened and empowered by Elizabeth’s affirmations as she breaks into the Magnificat. It is as though Elizabeth’s words, “Blessed is she who believed,” creates space in Mary’s heart to proclaim the broad implications of what is taking place within her womb. I wanted to depict the creative energy, communication, and power that was taking place in Mary and Elizabeth’s wombs in this moment. Mary’s womb swirls with the knitting together of the One through whom all things came into being, while Elizabeth’s womb radiates joy with the leaping of the one who will spend his life directing attention, awe and reverence to the One in Mary’s womb. When we draw near to one another, we can recognize and proclaim God’s movement in one another’s lives and be encouraged in our own journey. When we draw near to one another, we live more fully into who we were created to be.

Blessed Are You Who Bear the Light – by Jan Richardson

Blessed are you
who bear the light
in unbearable times,
who testify
to its endurance
amid the unendurable,
who bear witness
to its persistence
when everything seems
in shadow
and grief.

Blessed are you
in whom
the light lives,
in whom
the brightness blazes—
your heart
a chapel,
an altar where
in the deepest night
can be seen
the fire that
shines forth in you
in unaccountable faith
in stubborn hope
in love that illumines
every broken thing
it finds.

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