Vol. 6, No. 13
Daughters of Mary Instruction
November 29, 2016
Lynn D. Clapper
As we look forward to the second Sunday of Advent, and continue on our journey with Mary as she is
transformed from a devout young Jewish girl of immaculate character, to the mother-to- be of the Son of
God, let’s take a minute to look back on last week’s story, and see where we left her.
On an ordinary day, the messenger angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and informed her that she had been
chosen by God to become the mother of his Son. In, fact, the angel went on, the Holy Spirit was to
overshadow her and she would become pregnant, despite the fact that she and her betrothed Joseph
had not yet come to live as husband and wife. To allay Mary’s nervousness at this unusual
announcement, Gabriel had also revealed to Mary the miraculous news that her relative, Elizabeth, long
considered too old to have a child, was in fact, six months along with her first-born, a son. Along with
the angel’s declaration that nothing is impossible for God, this news about Elizabeth seems to have
convinced Mary that she could do this seemingly ‘impossible’ thing that the angel was asking of her. She
tells Gabriel that she is the handmaid of the Lord, and her words of humble and ready acceptance burn
in our hearts even today…be it done to me according to your word.
Luke then tells us that the angel departed from Mary, leaving her in much the same place as he found
her, but, we can imagine that the words running through her mind at that moment could have been
“What do I do now?” Suddenly, she is struck by the enormity of what she had just accepted as God’s
word to her. What will she tell her parents? How will she explain this to her fiancée, Joseph? The
townspeople will be horrified, and the most zealous among them will accuse her of adultery! Joseph
could divorce her, her family will be shamed, and according to the Mosaic Law, she could even be
stoned to death. Stoned to death.
Mary’s household is in an uproar over this news of a pregnancy out of wedlock, and Mary’s description
of the angel’s visit and his explanation that her pregnancy is by the power of the Holy Spirit, and that her
son will be the long-awaited King, has not really made her parents and Joseph feel too much better.
Joseph, a devout observer of Mosaic law, is inclined to divorce Mary, which would expose her and her
family, to the judgement of the townspeople. Even a quiet divorce will not help matters once Mary’s
condition becomes obvious.
But, the angel of the Lord once again intervenes, this time appearing to Joseph, in a dream. “Joseph,
son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he
will save his people from their sins.” Matthew goes on to explain to us that this took place to fulfill what
the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they
shall name him Emmanuel,’ which means “God is with us.” Joseph, as a righteous man who understood
the Law and the Prophets, does as they angel commands him and takes Mary into his home.
But, while Joseph makes the decision to take Mary, with child by the Holy Spirit, as his wife, there still
remains the problem of how the town will understand this. It may be that Mary is now convinced that
somehow God will work that out when the time comes, but now, she is determined to leave
immediately to visit Elizabeth, her relative who is also miraculously with child. This is where we meet
Mary this morning.
And so, Mary embarks on a trip to the hill country of Judea, nearly 100 miles south of Nazareth. We are
not told how she traveled, but the trip will take five days if she walks, or three if she travels by caravan.
We can assume that she likely did not travel alone, however, as the customs and mores of the day
would have considered such a trip improper and dangerous for a woman. Perhaps her new husband
Joseph accompanied her, since the trip would not be easy for a woman in the early stages of pregnancy.
When Mary finally arrives at the household of Zechariah and Elizabeth, likely exhausted from the
difficult journey, perhaps ill with the sickness of early pregnancy, perhaps still a bit bewildered and
shaken by the words of the angel to her and to Joseph, she is greeted by Elizabeth in the most surprising
way. “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this
happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your
greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that
what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
Mary is filled with amazement. How did Elizabeth know all this? She has told no one except Joseph and
her family about the baby. And, all at once, Mary begins to grasp that what is happening to her is truly
impossible for anyone, but God. The child the angel Gabriel told her would be Son of the Most High, is
the king they have awaited for so long. Elizabeth’s baby leaped in her womb at the sound of Mary’s
voice? The anxiety of the last weeks, and yes, a bit of the fear, begin to melt away.
And through the visit to an elderly aunt also blessed with an impossible pregnancy, Mary’s willingness to
accept the angel’s impossible mission for her is affirmed. She will be the mother of the Son of God, His
name will be Emmanuel, and the baby that Elizabeth is carrying has leapt in her womb, telling all that
God is with us.
The Gospel for the second Sunday in Advent describes the man who was the baby that leapt for joy at
the sound of Mary’s voice. John the Baptist, as he is known to us, preached throughout the desert of
Judea that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. He could say it, because he had always known it. From his
earliest days as a baby in his own mother’s womb, he recognized the presence of a Savior in the greeting
of a young woman trying to understand the will of the Lord.
Nancy’s commentary this morning describes a John the Baptist in complete understanding of his role in
the coming of the Messiah. She will help us understand an unusual man with an unusual message. As
we leave Mary in the hill country of Judea with her relative, Elizabeth, what we see fills us with awe for
the unfolding of a plan thousands of years in the making, but that reveals itself to us anew each year. In
the space of that little home, two babies yet unborn recognize each other, and their mothers begin to
fully grasp that the miracle of what is unfolding through them was not impossible for God. As the second
Sunday of Advent approaches, it is the voice of John the Baptist, a miracle baby destined to prepare the
way of someone greater than he, that reassures us that the kingdom of God is at hand.
Luke 1:26-45, Matt 1:18-25