Monday, November 30, 2015

In the Picture: Elizabeth

Carl Heinrich Bloch 1834 - 1890

Read: Luke 1.24-25, 39-45 

 After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, ‘This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favourably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.’
 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’

In this picture by Carl Heinrich Bloch, a Danish painter, Elizabeth is pictured literally welcoming Mary with open arms. We can understand her joy for herself; she is to become a mother, despite thinking this was impossible for her. But she is also overjoyed to greet Mary, her relative,  who is to be the mother of the Messiah, and that tells us something very important about Elizabeth.
Elizabeth's pregnancy carries no shame with it; it may be extraordinary, but she is a respectable married woman. In fact it is the means by which "her disgrace" is taken away, the disgrace which was commonly felt at the time if women were unable to bear children. But Mary finds herself pregnant before her marriage, and while she may know that the child she carries is God's, her neighbours and perhaps other members of the family don't. She is open to accusations of adultery, and could even be stoned. How does she feel as she approaches Elizabeth? Will she disapprove of her? She needn't have worried. Elizabeth sees God at work in this, probably rather frightened, teenager in front of her, and her only concern is to reassure and support.

  • Have you ever encountered God at work in unexpected people or situations?
  • Look at each person you meet today and ask yourself, "how might God be at work in them?"

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