“Blessed are you among women” (Luke 1:42)

Advent begins with the thunder and power of cosmic prophecies of judgment, but always ends with a reflection on the birth of the Messiah and the pivotal role of a young Israelite virgin. From forceful and compelling prophecies that use images of mountains and valleys changing shape and skies that roll up like curtains, we come at the end of Advent to the simple account of Mary visiting her kinswoman Elizabeth.

Throughout today’s lessons we recognize that the portentous messages of the previous weeks are by no means diminished. On the contrary, they become even more significant as they are packaged in what is small and ordinary. The lesson from Micah begins by stating that a small, backwater village will be the birthplace of one whose origin is from ancient days and who is destined to be “great to the ends of the earth.” In the lesson from Hebrews we read a prophecy from the psalms, interpreted to show that the entire sacrificial system of the temple is summed up and fulfilled in One who shall himself be the sacrifice in his own body, a “once-offered” sacrifice that will be effective for all time.

In the lesson from Luke, the mother of the Messiah greets the mother of his forerunner. In this event, the news of the Messianic age is first addressed in human conversation. The mothers of two sons who will die by violence when they are in their early 30s begin the sharing of the good news with thrilling words. When Mary exulted with Elizabeth over her calling, she sang, “all generations shall call me blessed.” She sang in jubilation over the fulfillment of the holy promise of God to his people and all the world that was being achieved in her. Our first mother came to be called “the mother of all living,” even after she fell into sin and disgrace and brought all our race that followed into a place of hopeless grief.

In that dismal place Mary became our second mother when she said to the angel of the annunciation, “behold the handmaiden of the Lord.” As her Son is the second Adam who bore our nature into the realm of death and then lifted it to the right hand of the Father, so her obedience reversed the disobedience of our first mother. Like her, Mary is also “the mother of all living.” Mary is even her mother. In the face of all our race’s failures, rebelliousness, and atrocities, if humanity has any reason to boast to the universe, surely that boast would be Mary — the first, greatest, and deepest lover of God. Her exultant words before Elizabeth are about the mightiest of cosmic events.

Look it Up

Reflect on Psalm 40, the source of the quotation in the lesson from Hebrews.

Think About It

Jesus said to his disciples on the night he was betrayed, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” But his human body that was soon to be offered as that sacrifice mentioned in Hebrews came from his mother alone. Since he is true Man as well as true God, surely whoever sees him sees also his mother.