If you had been Mary that day, what would you have thought after Gabriel left you? Possibly you would have sat still for a while, stunned at the awesome experience of an angelic encounter and even more stunned at the message that you had been chosen by God to bring the Redeemer into the world.
We aren’t told how long Mary took to digest the experience and the reality of this extraordinary pregnancy, but it appears that it wasn’t too long before she “got ready and hurried” to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who lived in the hill country of Judea, south of Nazareth. It was at least a few days’ journey by foot.
Whether Mary thought of visiting Elizabeth because the angel had mentioned the older woman’s pregnancy or because the two women were already good friends is not clear. Apparently it was important to Mary to spend some time with Elizabeth. In any case, Mary arrived at Elizabeth’s house, and even as she passed through the door, Elizabeth was filled with the Spirit of God and 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!” (luke 1:42–45).
“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” Adam and Eve had heard the word of the Lord but had doubted. Mary heard the word of the Lord from his messenger Gabriel and believed. She believed against everything that seemed rational, natural, or humanly possible. She could submit to God’s plan because she believed.
Mary responded to Elizabeth’s inspired greeting with a hymn of praise to God, which is recorded in Luke 1:46–55:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
Much in Mary’s hymn takes us back to Hannah’s song in 1 Samuel 2. Mary must have known not only the stories but the songs of her Jewish history and heritage. Hannah’s words came easily to her lips as she praised God, expressing her newfound hope.
Mingled in Mary’s praise is a clear understanding that the world in which she lived—and the world in which we live today—is not the world God designed for us. It is a cursed world shot through with sin and death, the result of Adam and Eve’s choice. Mary’s world was one of oppression by Romans and a cruel and capricious king, Herod. It was a world in which even the religious leaders in Israel “devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers.” (matthew 23:14 nkjv).
Mary’s praise to God includes her awareness of the poor, the hungry, and the afflicted. Mary saw the miracle of her conception of Jesus as God on the move. God was about to begin the long-awaited tasks of scattering the proud, of bringing down rulers, of lifting up the humble, of filling the hungry with good things, and sending the rich away empty. In short, Mary saw that God was moving to fulfill his promise, a promise first made thousands of years before. A promise made to the two whose choice had begun the curse that twisted people’s minds, calloused their hearts, and made the world an ugly, despotic, and painful place in which to live.