God moves comfortably in the realm of the impossible. We, like the old priest, might look for reasons why something can’t happen. God found a girl prepared to sign on without resisting. Her brilliant response: “Let it be.”
Luke sets her story right after Elizabeth’s. Her priestly husband’s response contrasts Mary’s. He received some shocking news with skepticism. God has favorites—people He favors because they favor Him.
The back-to-back birth stories provide rich contrast. The senior couple prayed many years for a child, while Mary was still a virgin. The shame the elder couple felt in barrenness was lifted with the pregnancy, while shame came upon Mary when she began to show.
Even geography figures into the drama. The priest came from Judea, while Mary lived in Nazareth, a place of questionable reputation. Both participated in a miracle, one because of age, the other bypassing the normal route toward parenthood. A pregnant virgin is an oxymoron is there ever was one.
Both received visits from Gabriel, with five months intervening. Both women marveled at the grace of God shown them. And by divine action, both women carrying children marked for greatness came together at the home of Elizabeth. The young mother-to-be needed the strength her older relative could provide, but she had no idea how that encouragement would come—through prophetic proclamation of pinpoint accuracy.
Favor with God overrides the blessing of man, and that is how Mary towers above others. Elizabeth spoke appropriately and with volume, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear. But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:42,43).
She then closed her astounding message with yet more strength-giving words: “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished” (43). This provided a stirring entrance into the song of Mary, words set to music ever since (46-55)..
THE REAL FAVORITE
The spotlight now turned from the girl to the God who favored the girl, the God her Savior, whose “mercy extends to those who fear him,” as Mary certainly did, who “has performed mighty deeds with his arm,” who “has helped his servant Israel” through that mercy. It was being shown not just to a small nation but to the world, as the Mighty One sends His Child to be born of a virgin, whose birth will divide history, marshal armies, split up families and nations, and force a decision from every person who will ever live.
How should we honor Mary? Had the apostles wanted to assign her significance beyond what Elizabeth gave her, they would have given her mention in the rest of the New Testament. Their silence is telling. We can say what Elizabeth said and what she said herself. She is to be honored greatly for her faith and humility and for raising the Son of Man, and yet according to her own words, she is dwarfed by the true hero of heaven. We magnify the person Mary magnifies.
What impossibilities are staring you in the face today, challenging your circumstances, defying your peace, threatening your joy, mocking your future? How is God asking you to respond? The bottom line message from Mary is that she believed God. May you do the same—and walk in God’s favor!