URC Daily Devotion 24 November 2023

24 December 2023
St Luke 1: 39 – 56

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.’

And Mary said,

‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
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;
for 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.


I belong to a choir that fills in at cathedrals about three times a year; it’s a privilege to share in worship in some beautiful buildings and to sing quite a different repertoire to that used in most URCs!  Cathedrals are one of the bastions of choral evensong, and the Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis are sung in every evensong.  I find there is quite a sobering contrast between the words of the Magnificat, in particular, and the wealth and power represented by a cathedral – which is not a criticism of their ministry, which can be as radical and inclusive as any church, but rather a reflection of the way the church has been intertwined with the powerful in the UK for many centuries.

Luke has also done something pretty unusual for the pages of scripture – as this passage has two women talking to each other about something important.  I’m not sure it would quite meet the Bechdel test for representation of women (that there are at least two women who talk to each other – and discuss something other than a man) but this story of two normal women talking about faith is rather different to a story about learned or powerful men.

I suspect that if you asked the average person in the street what they associated with Christmas you would get answers about family time, food, presents and seasonal music.  The familiar and apparently traditional.  What would Christmas be like if we really brought down the powerful from their thrones, lifted up the lowly, filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty?  Perhaps that’s a Christmas tradition we should revive!


We give thanks for the witness of Mary and Elizabeth
Who heard your call to them, and gave thanks.

Forgive us for the times when we ignore your call
When we discount the voices of less powerful people.

Inspire us to accept the challenge Mary laid down
And live lives that magnify you as she did.





Today’s writer

Gordon Woods, Elder, St. Columba’s URC, Oxford


The Psalms: An Inclusive Language Version based on the Grail translation from the Hebrew © 1963, 1986 The Grail (England) GIA Publications

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