Mary Visits Elizabeth


The American storyteller Garrison Keillor recently claimed that you don’t have to believe in Jesus to have a great Christmas. Keillor said,

Although you may decide that instead of Christmas carols you are going to hold hands and breathe in unison, Christmas will still live deep in the cockles of your heart—or actually in your neo-cortex, stored as zillions of neuron impulses … It’s [your brain] that sends tears to your eyes when you smell the saffron cookies that your grandma used to make or you sing Silent Night. So Christmas is: number one lights, number two food, number three song, number four being with people you like. You need no more.

Tim Keller comments on Keillor’s quote:

Keillor is saying that it doesn’t matter whether you believe in God or not. You can still hold hands, you can still breathe in unison. All the good feelings of Christmas are just a reaction in our brain. But here’s why that doesn’t work. I know enough about Garrison Keillor to know that he is very upset with cruelty and prejudice. But if it’s really true that there is no God, if there is no supernatural or miracles, and if everything is a function of natural causes—if that is all true, then it is also true that love, and joy, and even cruelty and prejudice are just all chemical reactions stored in our brain. Keillor is against cruelty and prejudice, but if it’s true that everything is just chemistry, then how in the world can you say there’s a moral difference between love and cruelty, between kissing someone or killing someone? They’re both nothing but neuro-chemical responses. So if there is no God, and if Christmas is all about lights, songs, and being with nice people and your neo-cortex going crazy about it, then I don’t see how Keillor can stand up and say that there is something wrong with cruelty and prejudice. He can’t do it. Without the theology behind Christmas, you lose the core meaning of Christmas.[1]

So, as we move towards Christmas remember the importance of what is happening. Remember the reality and the truth of what is happening. Next, to get closer to today’s message, we see certain values present in Mary’s Magnificat. We see certain values addressed. The Magnificat is addressing injustice. We’ll look at that in a moment, but let’s look at a bigger picture. The Gospel is addressing injustice. Somehow we know and we believe in morality. Somehow we know and we believe that certain things are wrong and others are right. Somehow we believe in love. We believe in joy. We get these values somewhere. The Bible teaches that we get these values from God. (Romans 1:18-19; 2:15) Even more than that, we believe that certain things are wrong. If we believe certain things are wrong like murder, stealing, telling lies and just being mean, which the Bible calls sin. How do we make it right? Jesus’ death and resurrection takes care of our sin.

So, Mary is pregnant with Jesus. She is likely a little bit down. She may be very down. She doesn’t know how she is going to handle everything coming her way, but she is encouraged by her relative Elizabeth.  Have you ever been encouraged?

Have you ever thought you had more coming your way than you could handle?

Who encouraged you?

Who motivated you?

Let’s look at the passage.

Let’s read Luke 1:39-45:

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea,  where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!  But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!  

Theme: Mary visits Elizabeth and she is encouraged

Applications: Kneel before Jesus as Lord and be used of God to encourage others.

  1. Kneel before Jesus as Lord.
    1. We need to notice who the first person to call Jesus Lord was. If you look at this passage it was Elizabeth.
    2. Let me put this in context. The angel Gabriel visit Mary and tells her she is going to be pregnant with the Messiah. That happens in Luke 1:26-38. That passage ends with Mary saying, “I am the Lord’s servant…” Then Mary leaves and goes to visit her relative Elizabeth. This was likely an 8-9 day journey through Mountains and rough land. She is going from Nazareth to Ein Karem which is the traditional location of Elizabeth and Zachariah’s home.
  • Adam Hamilton believes that another reason for Mary to visit Elizabeth would be the proximity of her home to the home of Joseph. Tradition says that her home would have been in Ein Karem just about an hour walk and a few miles from the Temple mount in Jerusalem. Ein Karem is mentioned in Jeremiah 6:1 and Nehemiah 3:14 as “Beth-Haccherem” Ein Karem is 80 miles from Mary’s home in Nazareth. This may have taken 8-9 days and she would not have traveled alone. Mary stayed with Elizabeth until the end of the pregnancy.[2]
  1. Mary enters Elizabeth’s house and says, “Elizabeth, it’s me!” Then the baby in Elizabeth’s womb, John the Baptizer, leaped in her womb. Verse 41 says that Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Understand that is an amazing statement. In the Old Testament only prophets and certain kings received the Holy Spirit. So, in Psalm 51:11: King David laments: “Take not the Holy Spirit from me.” There was a fear of losing the Holy Spirit.
  2. It was once said, “I wonder what it was like for Moses to talk to God as he did.” Yet Moses could have thought, “What is it like to have God with you?” We receive the Holy Spirit when we commit to Christ (John 14-17). We have God with us. (2 Cor. 6:16) Don’t take this lightly.
  3. Now, having the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth encourages Mary.
  • She says in verse 42: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the child that you bear.”
  • Imagine Mary being down and struggling with this task and now her relative is saying, “You are blessed.” “You are really blessed.”
  1. But verse 43: “But why am I so favored that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”
  2. Catch this: Elizabeth is an ordinary person and God calls her to do an extraordinary thing. She is bearing John the Baptizer. She is encouraging Mary. She is saying, “Who am I?” But then she calls Jesus Lord.
  3. How would she know? She is filled with the Holy Spirit and so she is the first to call Jesus Lord.
  • Romans 10:9-10 tells us to call Jesus Lord, do you?
  • In verses 39-45: 3 times the word “blessed” is used. Twice it refers to Mary and once to Jesus.
  1. Be an encourager.
    1. Mary is likely 10 days pregnant at this point. She has not been pregnant long.
    2. She needs encouraged and Elizabeth gave her that encouragement.
  • Everyone needs an encourager. Let me jump to mentors. Elizabeth is an older woman, that is not Mary’s mom, who can voice wisdom in her life. I have often heard that everyone should have a mentor, everyone should be mentoring someone else and everyone should have a peer that they can connect with. How are you doing in this area?
  1. I heard about a church that decided to take this mentoring seriously, so on all of their committees they chose to have one third of the participants be fifty-five and older, one third are to be thirty-five through fifty-five years old and one third of the committee are to be thirty five and younger. What a great idea for mentoring.
  • The Gospel is counter-cultural, let’s look at the Magnificat.
    1. I want to put out some verses from the Magnificat. Mary’s Magnificat is in verses 46-56.
    2. Magnificat comes from the Latin: “magnify” or “praise” this is based on the way Mary began her Psalm: “My Soul Magnifies the Lord.”
  • Mary was from a town so small it could barely be a dot on a map. Joseph was a carpenter and his net worth could fit in a tool box.
  1. He scatters the proud and pulls down the mighty from their thrones. (verses 51-52)
  2. Compare this with what Jesus will later say:
  3. Jesus had said, “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.”
  • Jesus said, “if you really want to be great you will be the servant of others.”
  • Jesus said, “If you are invited to a wedding banquet take the lower seat.”
  1. Jesus said, “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up.” (Matthew 20:16, 26; Luke 14:8-11; James 4:10)
  2. In Mary’s Magnificat we find a picture of a God who is for the underdog and is for people who have been made to be feel like nobodies. Those are the ones He lifts up. That is the character of the God proclaimed in the Scriptures. That is the character of His Son.
  3. The Magnificat says that “He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty handed.” (verse 53)
  • This is an opportunity for the rich to humble themselves and be used of God.
  • The Magnificat is counter-cultural. The Magnificat is about how God uses ordinary people for extraordinary things.

So, review:

Mary and Elizabeth, two ordinary people who God used to do the extraordinary.

Theme: Mary visits Elizabeth and she is encouraged

Applications: Kneel before Jesus as Lord and be used of God to encourage others.

Do you know Jesus?

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)


[1] Adapted from Tim Keller, “God with Us: Conversations with Tim Keller about Christmas”

[2] Hamilton, Adam (2011-09-01). The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem. Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.

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