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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, December 8, 2019  

Today’s Scripture Reading | Luke 1:39–45

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

When I first read this passage, I was baffled. I did not quite know what I was supposed to take away from it. So I turned to commentaries to see what, if anything, they saw that I was missing.

One scholar pointed out how Elizabeth’s child discovered God through Mary’s and how, similarly in life, we discover the Lord in the most surprising and unexpected places and times. Another excerpt points out that, contrary to the majority of passages in the Bible, this passage focuses primarily on women. Moreover, this is a passage that focuses on women who, in normal circumstances, would have been viewed as double-outcasts: Elizabeth, who up until recently was unable to bear a child, and Mary, who was carrying a child before she was wed. Yet Elizabeth does not shun Mary but rather embraces her, a foreshadowing of the nature and deeds of the child that Mary is carrying.

As I read these different interpretations, I was amazed at how complex and revealing this passage is even though the first time I read it I was convinced there was little meaning to be made of it. How true, though, is this in life as well? On the surface, things may appear to be straightforward and simple, but in reality so much more lies beneath, if we are but willing to dig deep enough.

And so this passage served multiple meanings for me. For one, to be reminded of my own biases and not to be too quick to jump to conclusions—such a simple lesson, I know, but one that I think we can all do well to be continuously reminded of. And the lesson that God can be discovered in the most unexpected times and places and we ought to be welcoming to all who come into our lives, for we never know what they may be carrying within them.

Dear Lord, grant me the sight to see what lies beneath and the wisdom to know how to interpret it. Help me to embrace and welcome all those who seek me out and to greet them with compassion. In your name I pray. Amen.

Written by Stephanie Jenks, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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