Advent Reflections: The Strangeness of Love in the Womb of Mary
By Ryan Smith
Dec 22, 2018
J. Ryan Smith is a transplanted prairie boy and a first year PhD student at Wycliffe College who studies divine violence in the Scriptures.
Passage for reflection: Luke 2: 1 - 20
Mary Visits Elizabeth
39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be[a] a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
The Strangeness of Love in the Womb of Mary
What does the candle of love have to do with this meeting of Mary and Elizabeth?
As I was reflecting on this passage I could not help but be struck at how strange it was to quickly shove love into this passage. This sort of "reading" of the Bible is often tempting to me because I know the story, and I know that "God is love" and all the rest. But the familiarity of the story can sometimes obscure the strange particulars of what God did in Christ, and how challenging it can be to relate that to "love."
And this passage is no exception. A pregnant woman welcoming her pregnant cousin is something that happens every day on almost every street in the world. And yet...
This woman is carrying the Messiah of Israel, Emmanuel, The Logos made flesh, and the soon to be Crucified One. In the midst of a simple greeting lies the outworking of the fulfilment of the promise of God to Abraham all those years ago. A promise that had brought hope to multitudes of women, pregnant or barren, and to their children. Yet here was something unexpected, not merely was God doing something to ensure that His promise would be kept, but God Himself came to His people in the womb of a young Jewish girl. How utterly strange!
The Scripture tells us that "God is love," and so, somehow this strange act must be "loving." And as such this passage reminds us that how God has acted and is acting continually calls into question our utterly ordinary love in its very strange ordinariness. Why Mary? How is this possible?
The baby leapt for joy! A baby who would spend his life in the desert as John the Baptist eating locusts and honey, be thrown into jail and then suffer the indignity of his head being served on a plate. Not at all what one would expect from "good news."
Elizabeth wonders in gratitude, "Why is this granted to me that the mother of the Lord should come to me?' Her words echo Mary's earlier wonder at the strangeness of God's plan, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" Everyone involved in this plan is struck by its strangeness, and yet also struck by thanksgiving in light of God's goodness.
The strange love of God has come in Jesus. We are beckoned to gaze at the jagged edges of His story, because as we come to see and know the strangeness of His story we begin to grasp anew the strange beauty of the Father sending His Son to us in Mary's womb. And in His story we may come to see how the strangeness of our lives, in all of their brokenness, unexpectedness, hopelessness and blessedness may fit and may even be fulfilled.
May we also leap for joy and wonder in gratitude at the strange love of God as we prepare for His coming yet again.
May you in your infinite glory and wisdom remind us again of your utter strangeness and your Spirit come upon and cause us to leap for joy and wonder in gratitude at the coming of your Son. May we be reminded of your unexpected faithfulness as we go about our daily lives.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.