Friday, January 3, 2014

Tenth Day of Christmas 2014

Consider Elizabeth and Mary. Both are big parts of the story of Jesus' birth. (Well, Elizabeth is only named in the Gospel of Luke, but then only Matthew and Luke mention Jesus' birth at all so . . . )

One thing that strikes me about this story is that we know nothing of Mary's family except for this older cousin. We don't know about Mary's parents, we don't know where Mary lived---only that she was betrothed to Joseph but they weren't living together. Perhaps Mary lived with her parents. That seems logical to assume, but it is only an assumption. The stories are silent on this.

Whatever her living arrangements, she finds out she is pregnant from an angel, who also tells her this older cousin is also pregnant. Mary goes straightaway to Elizabeth.

I can't help but think of the stories I've heard about American teenaged girls "in trouble," from before the sexual revolution, and how they often disappeared to go live with an aunt or some other vaguely defined place while her "trouble" came to fruition. I don't know any of these women personally. I wonder about their relationship with their aunt (or whoever). What passed between them, if they sang hymns of joy to each other. I suspect not so much.

But Mary finds out she is pregnant and learns her cousin in pregnant and she goes to see Elizabeth. I suspect there must have been a relationship there already before the visit, that maybe they were already close, but it's more assumption. We only know Mary went to Elizabeth and Elizabeth knew without Mary telling her that she was pregnant. "Women's ways of knowing" or the Holy Spirit? Is there a difference? Does it matter? Elizabeth greeted her younger cousin---young Mary who was betrothed but had no business being pregnant yet---and they rejoiced together. Then Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months. I do wonder what it was like for Zechariah, a priest, to have this pregnant young woman in his house, but he was struck silent by an angel, so maybe he didn't have anything to say about it. Why three months? Is it fair to speculate that Mary stayed there that long for her own family to cool down and warm up to the idea that she was pregnant? Assumptions.

While Elizabeth's story appears only in Luke and any infancy of Jesus appears in only two canonical gospels, Elizabeth's child, John the Baptizer, appears in all four gospels and has a prominent role in them. John is the one who is at the beginning of Jesus public ministry.

So these two men who get so much attention in this story, come from two women who shouldn't have been mothers at that time in their lives. Elizabeth was too old. Mary was not married.

This is the kind of God we deal with when we deal with the God of the Gospels. The best things come from places they shouldn't. "Shouldn't" according to biology/age or "shouldn't" according to status/societal expectations.

There may be reason to pay more attention to the shouldn'ts of our lives

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