Lesson 51 –
Luke 1:39-45, 46-55 NRSV
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.”
46 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Today’s passage features a song of protest and hope called the Magnificat. This song of Mary is often remembered during Advent, but it also serves as the foundation of many social justice efforts globally. The first chapter of Luke is full of history about the upbringing not just of Jesus, but the rest of his family. The writer of this gospel takes great care to draw a compelling picture about the ways Jesus’ family had hope for the little baby. In your own devotional period, read the entire first chapter of Luke. What would you say is the overall mood of this passage? How do you feel after reading it?
Today’s lesson will focus on hope for our children.
Read the scripture aloud together. What’s happening during this passage?
Mary goes to visit with her relative, Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s voice, Elizabeth’s baby (John) jumped. Elizabeth spoke an affirmation over the two unborn babies saying, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” She refers to Mary as “the mother of my Lord” because “as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting,” her own baby jumped.
Then, Mary begins to sing a song of praise. In this song, she praises God for seeing fit to bring her here. She imagines a future where people call her “blessed” because of her role. Then she begins to imagine what her child will do. He will “have mercy,” “show strength,” “scatter the proud,” “bring down the powerful and lift up the lowly,” “fill the hungry with good things and send the rich away empty.” Mary sees these as a continued promise made to her ancestors.
WHAT IS SO SPECIAL ABOUT THIS PASSAGE?
This passage is the longest amount of time that a woman speaks in the New Testament. And across time and over history, the passage has been banned. Just a few verses earlier, Mary learns that she will become pregnant from an Angel’s message. She does not say much upon hearing this news. She is mostly shocked into silence. She does not say much until she meets with Elizabeth. She takes the time to spend a moment with a trusted family member as she thinks through her life transition. She is scared. She is a young, unmarried girl in a society that stigmatizes children “outside of marriage.” Only upon fellowship and sacred sister-time with Elizabeth does she realize that she can make the most out of this news.
Mary finds her voice in this chapter and decides to stand up for herself and her child, even in a world that whispers and gossips about her.
HOW DOES MARY’S SONG INFLUENCE JESUS’ MINISTRY?
We cannot get a Jesus who believes the “last shall be first” without a Jesus who first says, “he has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.” Jesus’ ministry reflects so many people around him, including his mother. Jesus “scatters the proud” when he tells the young rich man to “sell your possessions and give your money to the poor.” He “fills the hungry with good things” every time he brings the disciples and community together to break bread. He “shows strength with his arm” when he stands up for a woman accused of adultery.
We can say that maybe Mary predicts that Jesus will become this person because she has a prophetic vision. That can be true. What is also true is that Mary raises her son to value these things. Lullabies become values.
What questions do you still have of this scripture? How will you commit to journeying with this text this week?
CONNECTION TO TODAY’S WORLD
This week, author and activist bell hooks passed at the age of 69. She penned many books, all of which held love, community, and pride of Blackness at the center. As a feminist, she saw the rights of children as an integral part of building a revolutionary future. In her own words, she would say:
“I think that a lot of times in children’s books that are oriented toward Black kids, a lot of playfulness is taken out… It’s as if the world says, ‘Oh, their experience is harsh, and we’ve got to prepare them for the harsh reality.’ In fact, if we give our children sound self-love, they will be able to deal with whatever life puts before them.”
For bell hooks, children deserved to have their rights respected. Doing so helps us to see that they are not “our property.” When children feel they have rights, they become adults who can advocate for themselves. Most importantly, they can have childhoods where they advocate for themselves and see adults supporting them, too.
Journal: If children heard affirming words and saw positive images around them, what might that do for us as a world? What is the consequence of delightful children?
Closing: Listen to “To Zion” by Lauryn Hill
Unsure of what the balance held
I touched my belly overwhelmed
By what I had been chosen to perform
But then an angel came one day
Told me to kneel down and pray
For unto me a man child would be born
Woe this crazy circumstance
I knew his life deserved a chance
But everybody told me to be smart
Look at your career they said
Lauryn, baby use your head
But instead, I chose to use my heart
Now the joy of my world is in Zion
How beautiful if nothing more
Than to wait at Zion’s door
I’ve never been in love like this before
Now let me pray to keep you from
The perils that will surely come
See life for you my prince has just begun
And I thank you for choosing me
To come through unto life to be
A beautiful reflection of his grace
For I know that a gift so great
Is only one god could create
And I’m reminded every time I see your face
Now the joy of my world is in Zion
Marching, marching, marching, marching to Zion
We thank you for the children in our communities. We know our children need love, care, and patience. It’s hard to find these things, especially patience, when we are so frazzled in our world. It’s hard to focus and respond appropriately when we are stressed.
You know what we feel. You know how we feel.
Help us to be more loving, caring and patient. When we are unable to find these qualities, send the Holy Spirit to bring us an unlimited supply.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.