The Fellowship of Faith
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is one of the great figures in the Bible. In Luke 1:39, we read that Mary went with haste to see her cousin Elizabeth. Why? She had just received the news of all news: she was going to be the mother of the Messiah; her son would be the Saviour of the world.
Well - that doesn't actually tell us why she left Nazareth to be with Elizabeth for a few months. But it tells us what led to the decision: the news she got from God was life changing, and it is not difficult to suppose that Mary wanted to be around a friendly voice.
Nazareth was a small town, she was engaged to Joseph, but not yet married, and had not 'known' him in the biblical sense ... how does one explain to the local village that one's pregnancy is in fact the work of the Holy Spirit and did not involve normal human processes?
So the trip down south served to put Mary in a context where her faith could be fed in the fellowship of faith with her cousin Elizabeth. In this context, Mary sings one of the great songs of the Bible (Luke 1:46-55), reflecing on God's greatness (my soul magnifies the Lord), on his blessings to Mary, and on the great reversal God would accomplish through her son. It's a great song, looking back at God's faithfulness to Mary and looking forward to a future of Messianic peace.
Clearly, Mary has been reflecting on scripture; notice how she seems to draw on themse from Hannah's song (1 Samuel 2:1-10). But she has also been encouraged by Elizabeth, who spoke three blessings over her:
- Blessed are you among women
- Blessed is the fruit of your womb
- Blessed is the one who has believed what the Lord said would happen
Mary is blessed - not only because she has believed the Lord's word to her, but because she has been blessed by Elizabeth.
1. The Fellowship of Faith: Like Mary (but unlike Mary!), the Lord speaks words of destiny and promise over our lives. No - none of us are going to give birth to the Messiah; that was a one-off, and Mary stands in a distinct, singular group of one. But God does speak to us through his word, and like Mary - we need to believe his word. This word is best nurtured in the fellowship of faith where we feed our faith with believing his promises. There are times you have to leave your Nazareth and surround yourself with words of blessing.
2. The Blessing of Faith: as we follow Jesus in the community of the church, we all encounter people with struggles, dreams, hopes, and ideas. Every time we show up at church is an opportutnity to feed faith - or torpedo faith. We all have the opportunity to encourage, to strengthen, to bless ... or we can pull down, destroy, and discourage. Let's learn from Elizabeth's example and stir up each other to love and good deeds.
3. God Wins: Remember, faith is believing that God's promises are true; faith is acting like God is not a liar. The song of faith Mary sang points to the victory that Christ has won. Even though she hasn't given birth yet, Mary sings in the past tense because, from her perspective - and God's - the future has already been accomplished. God wins - and the fulness of his purpose will come to pass.