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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, December 14, 2019  

Today’s Scripture Reading | Luke 1:57–66

Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him. (NRSV)

Reading scripture through the lens of contemporary cultural norms is perilous, I know, but I can’t help picturing Elizabeth here, her neighbors all amazed and chattering, while she gives a kind of head-to-the-side eye roll, like, “Sure: I bore the child and told you all his name, and none of you wanted to hear it. But my husband, who hasn’t spoken a word for months, repeats the same thing I just told you and suddenly it’s a miracle. Whatever.”

Of course, Elizabeth knows this is not about her. She is a model of faith that does its improbable part and doesn’t seek adulation. She gives it instead, as when her cousin Mary walks through her door bearing the exact same situation as Elizabeth, and Elizabeth showers her with blessing and praise. For weeks before Mary’s visit, with-child Elizabeth sat in seclusion with her gift, mouthing praise for only the walls to hear, which is more than her husband the priest could do; his tongue was stopped up when he didn’t believe the angel about what God and Elizabeth were up to.

For Elizabeth, it must feel like it’s about Mary before it’s about her. It’s about Zechariah. It’s about the child. It’s about everybody but Elizabeth. Yes, and it’s mostly about the Lord, who is mysteriously orchestrating it all out of view. I think Elizabeth knows that better than anyone, and I imagine that is the source of her strength.

This is what you have done for us, O Lord: looked favorably upon us as upon Elizabeth and made what feels small and insignificant about our life into the raw material for the great drama of incarnation and redemption, made most clear in Jesus’ life. Help us to see and to praise. Amen.

Written by Rocky Supinger, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry

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