Turning the world upside down?
This week we hear a very familiar story in our gospel passage commonly called the Visitation. In this particular portion of the birth narratives from Luke, we learn of Mary’s journey to the “hill country” to spend time with her relative Elizabeth. We are not told why Mary went, only that when Gabriel told Mary that she would be giving birth to Jesus, he also shared that Elizabeth was also pregnant. This was supposed to be impossible as Elizabeth was considered to be too old to have a child. And shortly after hearing all of this news, Mary left and spent about three months with these relatives. We could speculate as to why Mary goes, but probably the most remarkable aspect is the reaction of Elizabeth’s unborn child.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. Luke 1:41
I have no idea what this is like, even though I have had the pleasure of being allowed to touch another who is experiencing this movement. And I’ve even seen and felt the movement of both a calf and a foal in their mothers. It really is quite remarkable. But in this story, Elizabeth hears Mary’s greeting and the child in her responds; and Elizabeth then shares her exhilaration about Mary and the child that she is carrying.
It is a rather fantastic storyline, and many Christian scholars refer to the birth narratives as myth. Some Christian scholars write them off and say we shouldn’t hold any truth in them. Maybe so. Yet, this story and the rest of the birth narratives are some of the most well-known and shared stories of Scripture.
Why? I think we might find some understanding in the passage from Micah, a short but also well-known prophetic book. Micah describes the birth of one who is from a small unknown place, Bethlehem, and one who is both from of old and who will bring the return of all to Israel. This is one who will feed his flock, will make it so all shall live secure, and be the one of peace. Are these not the things we hope for deeply?
And wouldn’t the coming of the one, who brings all of this, turn our world upside down?
Sue von Rautenkranz