Daily Devotion for December 18, 2011
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Our Sunday Virtual Church this week takes us to the Chapel of King's College, Cambridge.
Prayer for the Morning
Oh Lord, most heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who has safely brought me to the beginning of this day; I give you thanks for my creation, preservation, and all the blessings of my life. Grant that this day I fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all my doings, being governed by your will, may be righteous in your sight. Through Christ our Lord, I pray.
Prayer for Grace and Strength
Lord God, I pray that you will fill my heart with the blessing of your Holy Spirit. Grant me this day the strength to be temperate in all things, diligent in my duties, and patient under my afflictions. Direct me in all my ways. Give me grace to be just and upright in all my dealings; quiet and peaceable; full of compassion; and ready to do good to all people, according to my abilities and opportunities. For the sake of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
Community of Prayer
Heavenly Lord, I know I am not alone saying these prayers or reading your Word this morning, but many people unknown to me, from all stations of life, have joined together in this brief moment of devotion. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be among the community of all who pray in the name of Christ this morning, and remain among us always.
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.
Starting Where We Are
"We think we must climb to a certain height of goodness before we can reach God. But if we are in a hole, the Way begins in the hole. The moment we set our face in the same direction as His, we are walking with God."
~ Helen Wodehouse
Mary Visits Elizabeth
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 this 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."
Notes on the Scripture
Luke's story of Mary and Elizabeth is, unfortunately, short and incomplete, for many people would love to know more of the details of both their lives. But they were unimportant people, not the sort of people anyone paid particularly great attention to at the time. Mary was a rather quiet teenager from a blue-collar family, who lived in the backwater town of Nazareth. Although she had caused a stir among her close friends and family, historians and scholars of the day would not have even noticed her.
Zechariah had a bit more standing in the community, since he was a priest of the Temple, but the Temple had many priests. As we learn in 1 Chronicles 24, there were 24 groups of priest who served for one week, in rotation; and considering the size of the Temple, there would have been numerous priests in each cycle. Although we don't know Zechariah's occupation, he lived in a hill town in Judah, as we learn from today's passage; so he was not a great personage, either.
Nor do we have any idea how Elizabeth knew so much about Mary. We might speculate that Mary's family was eager to spread the story of her visitation by Gabriel, since they would have wanted to explain the pregnancy of their teenage daughter. Although she was betrothed, betrothals lasted at least a year. Girls were betrothed very young — 13 was the rule — and were expected to remain chaste during the period. Joseph, especially, would have needed convincing.
This is a sweet story; Elizabeth and Mary seem to be close and affectionate, despite living so far apart. Certainly they had met at the frequent feast days, during which devout Jews would travel to Jerusalem. And she accepts Mary's story without reservation, crediting her jumping fetus to the sanctity of the child Mary is carrying. (Elizabeth would have been near delivery, as she had been six months pregnant when Mary conceived.) Of course, Elizabeth herself had already seen proof of one miracle, namely, her own pregnancy.
The little scraps of information in this passage would become the basis for enormous reverence in centuries to come; the (mental and physical) image of Mary, especially in Catholic and Orthodox churches, has been the source of comfort and hope for millions of people, male as well as female, over the centuries.