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Advent: Elizabeth's Song (Luke 1:39-45)

By Michael Milton | President of the Charlotte campus of Reformed Theological Seminary, Contributing Editor of Preaching magazine

The next movement in the Symphony of Christmas after Mary's opening happens as Mary traveled from Nazareth to the hill country of Judea. One commentator has written that: "[Mary] probably traveled fifty to seventy miles from Nazareth to Zechariah's home in Judea, a major trip for Mary."1

Rushing to tell her relative Elizabeth, Mary found another surprise: old Elizabeth was expecting a child of her own! God was up to something big! When Elizabeth met little Mary and heard what God had done, the unborn child in her womb leapt for joy. This is the first instance of the ministry of John the Baptist! In responding to the news of the coming of Messiah, the unborn John the Baptist testified to his own mother and the Holy Spirit came upon her!

Elizabeth then broke out in joyful exclamation! How muted Zechariah must have wished he, too, could sing with his wife over the news!

This is a blessed Song, a happy song, which speaks of the absolute fulfillment in the magical appearance of Jesus Christ to people aware of their need for a Savior.

In Elizabeth's Song, we are given a Spirit-filled reply to Mary that focuses on the blessed consequences of God's grace in sending Jesus for every believer.

The First Consequence of Christ's Coming: A Blessing on Womankind

When she learned that her relative Mary was carrying the Messiah of God, Elizabeth, in a loud voice, cried out:

Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!

Now, this verse has been used by some to substantiate a view that Mary herself was without sin. Nothing even remotely suggests this in the text. What is being taught here is the truth that in Mary, womankind, previously under condemnation for Eve's role in being the first to fall and bringing her husband into her sin with her, will be liberated. There are a couple of passages that need examination at this point.

One passage to consider is Genesis 3:15, in which God spoke to Satan, who had led the woman astray. God told that fallen angel that there would be great enmity between women and him. And there would be a day when the seed of the woman (and note that there is no man mentioned in connection with this event) shall bruise the head of Satan.

Here we see God's Word providing an early warning to Satan and a happy word of hope for woman: from woman will come the Messiah.

Now, the Lord also spoke to the woman in the next verse (vs. 16) and told her that "I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you."

In verse 15 we have a word of hope for the woman, but in verse 16, we are given the reason for the hope: that woman, in her fallen estate, will endure sorrow and pain and oppression.

This is not an essay on the whole matter, but it is enough to reiterate that women prior to the coming of Jesus Christ led an ignoble existence at best and absolute degradation at worst. The tales of the mistreatment of women are myriad and their description is horrible. Women were dehumanized and treated like property.

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