–By Elizabeth Ahlman
July 2nd marks the visit of Mary to Elizabeth in the Church calendar. In German it is called Der Tag der Heimsuchung Mariae. In the German calendar, the Gospel lesson is Luke 1:39–47. On days when Gottesdienst, or Divine Service, is held, the German church calendar includes the readings, plus a “Tagesspruch” (Saying of the Day) which the Pastor speaks to those registering for Communion, as well as a Hallelujah verse unique to that day. These will be included in today’s reflection.
In those days, Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is it granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:39–47 ESV).
Tagesspruch (Saying of the Day): But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law” (Galatians 4:4 ESV).
Hallelujah Verse: Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvelous things! His right hand and His holy arm have worked salvation for Him. (Psalm 98:1 ESV).
What is so wonderful about the way these choices come together is that they direct our focus. They help us to know the main idea, the main point of these readings, of this minor festival. The main point isn’t how awesome Elizabeth and Mary are, though there is much to commend in both of them, of course! It’s not what we can learn from them. It’s not an opportunity to tell us all to be more trusting, more believing. The main focus of the text as directed by the Tagesspruch and Hallelujah verse is God at work for our salvation and the joy that calls forth. In other words, it helps us to see these verses as proclamation, promise, Gospel.
When the time was full, then God sent His Son. We see already in these verses the fullness of time coming to a head. When Mary enters and greets Elizabeth, both the baby John in her womb and Elizabeth herself recognize that this fullness of time has come! The Savior is here, arrived in the womb of Mary, tiny yet here! John leaps for joy in Elizabeth’s womb, and Elizabeth is gifted with the Holy Spirit to prophesy the Savior who has come into the world in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Elizabeth herself admits that she has no real right, nothing worthy in herself which brought about this visit. “Why is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” she asks. Yet Mary has come, and with her, the Savior of the world, to Elizabeth who counts herself, though also a vessel of God’s great plan, unworthy.
And so He comes also to us in the fullness of God’s time and with no real worthiness on our parts. Our Lord Jesus Christ comes as a baby in the womb, born of a woman, submitting Himself to the Law of which He Himself was Master. Submitting Himself to the death that Law demands. In no other way could we be redeemed. In no other way could God the Father be gracious to us. Only in Christ Jesus and His coming in the fullness of time as man could God show us mercy. God worked this salvation on our behalf, planning for it from the very beginning, and directing all things toward it.
What can so great a gift at just the right time do but bring forth praise – a new song? So Mary sings, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” A new song of God’s love in Christ Jesus at just the right time to save sinners like you, and me, and Mary, and Elizabeth, and baby John. A song so new, so true, so powerful that it echoes backward in time to transform songs of old, to show their fulfillment has come. We sing to the Lord, to Yahweh, who has done marvelous things, who has worked salvation with His right arm. A song so new, so true, so powerful that it pushes forward into our time so that we may sing it with the saints of old, the saints of now, and the saints yet to be born: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!”
Let us Pray: Heavenly Father, we thank and praise You for sending us Your Son when the fullness of time had come; continue to send Him to us through Word and Sacrament so that we may be brought to sing Your new song now and forever; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
- Did you miss last week’s devotion? Read it here.