and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
or the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
And Mary remained with her for about three months and then returned to her home.
In the season of Advent we walk in expectation. Expectation of the birth of Jesus – to be celebrated again, each year – and expectation of the second coming of Jesus – who knows when?
In our reading today we hear Mary’s reaction to the news that she is expecting, as we might say today. She has had time to think about the news from the angel, and has travelled to see Elizabeth. How has she spent this time? Has she been concerned, or calm? Is it Elizabeth’s description of John’s greeting of Jesus whilst still in the womb which has made her convinced of the goodness of the news? Or has she been bursting with excitement all the way from Galilee?
Either way, today we hear her sing. She can’t hold back as she praises God in her amazement that God has chosen her for this blessing. God’s mercy and power are sung of over and over again as Mary’s joy overflows.
And what about us?
Some people can get an inkling of how Mary feels because of the joy they felt when they discovered they were pregnant. But many people don’t even have that insight into Mary’s delight. And it is those people who come to mind today. That people will marry, or settle into a committed relationship, and have children, is often expected – and there is that word again! The pressure of social expectation. But not all people want children, and not all people can have children.
It might feel like the end of the world for some people when they can’t have children. But it needn’t be.
We should still expect God to surprise us – not necessarily with a child, but with some other gift or talent with which to bless the world. We should expect God to do amazing things through us, too. These are the expectations which the world needs, not expectations which make us feel inadequate or unusual in the world’s eyes when we don’t – or can’t – fulfil them.
Then we too might be able to sing with Mary in joy and celebration, trusting that God knows what is best for each of us.
who knows our inner desires and fears
better than we do ourselves,
help each of us to recognise
the special gift we receive from you,
that we may praise you with Mary,
Julie Young is a lay preacher in the Wessex Synod and a member of Farnham URC.