Our Gospel reading is the account of the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth.
1st Reading: Micah 5:2-5a
Micah was active as a prophet in the 8th century bce. during the reigns of Ahaz and Hezekiah, although this latter part of the book may date from the later exile. The vision is of a restored monarchy in the line of David, hence the importance of
Christians have read this text as a prophecy of the Messiah. Bethlehem
5:2 But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. 3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. 4 And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; 5 and he shall be the one of peace.
Our psalm today is a communal lament, calling on God as Shepherd to deliver the people from their enemies. It follows on the first reading in that it invokes the shepherd image, with Bethlehem in the first reading being the home of the Shepherd King, David.
The Song of Mary (Magnificat)
Our psalm today is Luke 1:46-55, Mary’s song upon hearing the greeting of her cousin Elizabeth. Mary’s song closely parallels that of her ancestor Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1-10). She sings of a world turned upside down as her own world has been. She sings also in the past tense, as if justice has already come.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; *
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
The Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him *
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, *
he has scattered the proud in their conceit,
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, *
and lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, *
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel, *
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise made to our fathers, *
2nd Reading: Hebrews 10:5-10
In this passage the author of Hebrews uses Psalm 40:7-9 to illustrate how the coming of Christ into the world has led to salvation for all. This text reminds us of the connection between Christmas and Good Friday/Easter. The one leads necessarily to the other.
10:5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; 6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, ‘See, God, I have come to do your will, O God’ (in the scroll of the book it is written of me).” 8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, “See, I have come to do your will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. 10 And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Gospel Reading: Luke 1:39-55
Our Gospel reading is the account of the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. The words of Elizabeth serve to confirm the announcement of the angel Gabriel. The babe leaps in Elizabeth’s womb reminding us that John is subservient to Jesus. Mary breaks into song, a song which closely parallels that of her ancestor Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1-10). She sings of a world turned upside down as her own world has been. She sings also in the past tense, as if justice has already come.
1:39 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.”
The Scripture quotations (except for the canticle) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission. All rights reserved. The Canticle and Psalm translations are from The Book of Common Prayer. Commentaries are copyright © 2018 Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843. . All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for individual or group study with this attribution.