Weekly Bible Devotional
“Those Who Dream Are Not Alone”
December 19, 2021
Prayer by Sarah Are:
Before you could speak, you were speaking—
Leaping in wombs, kicking, stretching, jumping for joy.
You have always found a way to show up in our midst,
Particularly on our fearful or lonely days.
So today, as we crack open our Bibles,
Fluttering through these old beloved pages,
We ask that you would move again.
Stir in us.
Speak to us.
Fill us with the Holy Spirit.
And if we are not able to hear your Word clearly,
Then give us Elizabeths
Who will point out your presence in delight and joy.
Before you could speak, you were speaking,
So here and now, Creator God, we are listening. Amen.
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.
Elizabeth shared and listened to God’s dream in Mary. Mary was her younger cousin, and Elizabeth could have taken on the role of judgment against Mary. She could have warned Mary about all the possible dangers ahead and made her dream into a nightmare of fear. Elizabeth was deeply grounded in God’s dream herself and thus was able to provide the space for Mary’s dream to unfold as well. When Mary got the news of her pregnancy, she went 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 spent 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 and dream of her life depended on Elizabeth’s deep listening, support, and mentoring. 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. It is interesting that the two women are the main speakers in this part of the story while, Zechariah, the priest is kept silent according to Luke 1:20, “But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.” It is those on the margins who are able to know the power of solidarity and listening. They know that one needs others, and that community is essential for survival, while those of us who put our trust in our own power and resources, often forget our need for others.
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. These are people who share the dream of God and see its potential fulfillment in us. Love in action is about that kind of presence. It is about those who see the light, image, and dream of God in us despite our imperfections and flaws.
Marcia Briggs writes, “The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God’ (v.30). There are three possible responses to fear: fight, flight, or freeze. Mary is, perhaps, frozen by the appearance of the angel Gabriel, whose greeting and message leave her perplexed and pondering. But she is not paralyzed by fear; instead, she is suspended in time as the angel foretells her destiny: to bear the Son of God. Mary is also told that she is not alone because her cousin Elizabeth is miraculously pregnant after years of being barren. Fully awakened by the angel’s declaration, ‘For nothing will be impossible with God” (v.37), Mary accepts her destiny saying, ‘Here am I, the servant of the LORD; let it be with me according to your word” (v.38a). Why does Mary accept her destiny? Mary and Elizabeth are mutually confirming witnesses that God stands with those who are marginalized. They know that they are not alone; they have each other, and know that God deems them worthy. Today we often talk about the need for solidarity…What Mary and Elizabeth’s witness teaches us is that solidarity emerges when we share a dream that perplexes us into pondering what God intends for and requires of us.”
Affirmation of Faith
by Sarah Are
We believe that this world is hard—
Harder than it has to be.
When the world falls apart around us,
We believe in listening for the angels that say, “Do not be afraid,”
And in seeking out the Elizabeths in our lives—
Those who laugh with joy at our arrival
And throw open the doors to their homes.
We believe that healthy relationships can offer healing,
Through the laughter of cousins,
The joy shared between siblings,
And the home found in partnership.
Therefore, we believe in church families,
In chosen families,
And in the love that extends beyond family.
We believe in friendships,
And in leaning on each other when the going gets tough.
We believe in the Triune God—
Lover, Beloved, and Love itself—
Inherently relational, always connected, and never alone.
We believe that that same belovedness exists for us.
We believe that we are loved and claimed,
Thanks be to God for a love like that.