Sermons from San Diego

We Find Joy in Connection - Mary and Elizabeth Found Each Other

December 10, 2023 Mission Hills UCC - United Church of Christ Season 2 Episode 2
We Find Joy in Connection - Mary and Elizabeth Found Each Other
Sermons from San Diego
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Sermons from San Diego
We Find Joy in Connection - Mary and Elizabeth Found Each Other
Dec 10, 2023 Season 2 Episode 2
Mission Hills UCC - United Church of Christ

The journey to visit Elizabeth would have been dangerous for Mary.  Giving birth may have been dangerous for Elizabeth.  Both had improbable news to share.  So what did they do?
Read Luke 1: 26-45

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Show Notes Transcript

The journey to visit Elizabeth would have been dangerous for Mary.  Giving birth may have been dangerous for Elizabeth.  Both had improbable news to share.  So what did they do?
Read Luke 1: 26-45

If this sermon was meaningful to you, learn more about the rest of our church at You are invited to support the ministry of Mission Hills United Church of Christ with a one time or recurring contribution -

Sermons from Mission Hills UCC

San Diego, California

 Rev. Dr. David Bahr

 December 10, 2023

 “We Find Joy in Connection”


Luke 1: 26-45Common English Bible

When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee, 27 to a virgin who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David’s house. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 When the angel came to her, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!” 29 She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you. 31 Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. 33 He will rule over Jacob’s house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom.”

34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen since I haven’t had sexual relations with a man?”

35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the one who is to be born will be holy. He will be called God’s Son. 36 Look, even in her old age, your relative Elizabeth has conceived a son. This woman who was labeled ‘unable to conceive’ is now six months pregnant. 37 Nothing is impossible for God.”

38 Then Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

39 Mary got up and hurried to a city in the Judean highlands. 40 She entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 With a loud voice she blurted out, “God has blessed you above all women, and he has blessed the child you carry. 43 Why do I have this honor, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45 Happy is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill the promises he made to her.”

The Angel Gabriel proclaimed to Zechariah that Elizabeth would give birth to a boy who would achieve great stature with God, filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment he leaves his mother’s womb.  An unlikely story since that womb had never been able to carry a child before.  Zechariah was unable to grasp that with God anything is possible, and so he was unable to speak for 9 months.  Which meant he was also unable to tell Elizabeth the news.  Can you imagine their game of charades when he returned home and attempted to tell her she would soon be pregnant?  


Question:  Had she been unable to get pregnant or had she been unable to conceive?  Translations differ.  But either way, I hear that and think nothing more.  At least they’re better than translations that call her the horrible “B” word:  barren.  But I was in a Bible study this week with a group of mostly female pastors and they understood Elizabeth’s situation differently than I had ever considered before.  Following this angelic announcement, Elizabeth did indeed conceive but then curiously went off by herself for five months.  Again, I hear that and think nothing more.  But my colleagues pointed out, that’s 20 weeks.  Why would she have waited 20 weeks until letting her family and neighbors see her?


What if it wasn’t that she couldn’t get pregnant but that she had suffered miscarriages for years – each time a devastating blow, each pregnancy less potentially joyful than hopelessly ominous.  What if she went away for 5 months so she didn’t have to bear the burden of judgment by others, the shame of losing another child.  And why not choose her own solitude?  If she did indeed miscarry, because of the blood she would have had to isolate anyway.  She returned after 20 weeks when the fear of losing another baby had lessened.  Not out of the woods, but perhaps farther along than she had been before.  This, of course, is just speculation, but it gave an insight into Elizabeth’s life and state of mind I hadn’t thought of before.  


And today, Mary.  From improbable to improbable.  At least Gabriel spoke to her directly.  She didn’t express Zechariah’s skepticism, “you expect me to believe this?”  She was more curious, asking, “how will this happen?”  And then she consented – “let us be with me” – perhaps a rare occasion in a young girl’s life to be able to give consent to anything.  How many decisions about her own life do you suppose she had a right to make? 


So many songs about Mary call her meek and mild.  But she was brave and bold, which doesn’t mean she wasn’t also scared out of her mind.  Thankfully she had someone she knew she could talk to about such a thing.  For Mary – in her early teens – that person was Elizabeth – probably in her late 30s.  You know, old.


Do you have someone you can call or go visit who will listen without judgment, who won’t try to fix you or the situation?  Someone who will listen to news that you don’t dare tell just anyone.  How hard would you work to get together?  Because this wasn’t just making a phone call.  


Elizabeth didn’t live around the corner or the next town over.  She lived 80 miles away, the other side of a mountain range – an estimated 9 day walk.  But an unmarried teenage girl doesn’t just take a walk by herself no matter how close or far away.  How did she do it?  Would she have tried to blend in with a caravan?  Would she have walked on isolated, even-more dangerous trails, hiding along the way to avoid being seen?  Her decision to confront the danger of this travel makes her even more bold and brave and bad “…”.  Why did she do it?


Why do people do it today?  Make the improbable decision to take such a dangerous journey.  And how?  Blend in with migrant caravans?  Choose isolated dangerous trails to avoid being seen?  The Somali-British poet Warsan Shire (she-ray) always helps me at least grasp at the question “why.”


no one leaves home unless
 home is the mouth of a shark

 you only run for the border
 when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you - 

breath bloody in their throats

 the boy you went to school with
 who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
 is holding a gun bigger than his body


you have to understand,
 that no one puts their children in a boat
 unless the water is safer than the land

 you only leave home
 when home won’t let you stay.


Now, in the Gospel of Matthew, the new family escaped the murderous King Herod by fleeing to Egypt where they lived as refugees until it was safe to return.  But in the Gospel Luke, Mary wasn’t exactly fleeing this kind of danger, although, think about it.  Not married and soon to be pregnant.  That’s the kind of thing that got women killed – no questions asked, no defense of something considered so indefensible.  All while men bragged in the locker room.  


You know, we may approach these stories like they are fairy tales, but these questions make clear that these are real lives.  There are real people like Mary who face real danger and there are real people like Elizabeth who experience crushing grief.  People then just like people face today.  And in light of all that, what did Mary and Elizabeth do?


They found each other.  They shared their amazement.  And they proclaimed they were ready.  They found joy in their connection.  Elizabeth hoping this child would come to full term.  Mary hoping she was up to the challenge of being the mother of God’s son.  


700 years ago, Meister Eckhart gave a sermon in which he said:  

“What good is it to me that Mary gave birth to the son of God if I do not also give birth to the Son of God in my own time and in my culture?  We are all meant to be mothers of God.  God is always needing to be born.”


Yes, but what if we feel like we’ve failed at it before?  What if we don’t have time for that?  What if we can’t understand how it can be that God would use us?  Why me?  Why would God bother with me?  These may be a series of hard to believe stories, but there is at least one absolute truth:  Because nothing is impossible for God.  So join with Mary and give consent:  “let it be with me just as you have said.”  And with Elizabeth, bless anyone who says yes because “happy is she, anyone, who believes God will fulfill God’s promises through us.”  


Mary risked everything to find Elizabeth.  And as soon as she saw Mary, the child in Elizabeth’s womb jumped for joy and she was filled with the Holy Spirit.  Her cousin Mary carried the child of her Lord.  And hearing this greeting, confirming what she had been told, confirming what she had consented to.  She saw the vision, the implications of her son coming into the world:  the powerful toppled from their thrones and the humble lifted high; the hungry filled with good things and the rich sent away empty; the proud scattered in the thoughts of their hearts.


Or in the words of the Modern Magnificat by Joy Cowley:

My soul sings in gratitude.

I’m dancing in the mystery of God.

The light of the Holy One is within me

and I am blessed, so truly blessed.


I am filled with awe

at Love whose only condition

is to be received.


The gift is not for the proud,

for they have no room for it.

The strong and self-sufficient ones

don’t have this awareness.


But those who know their emptiness

can rejoice in Love’s fullness.

It’s the Love that we are made for,

the reason for our being.

It fills our inmost space

and brings to birth in us, the Holy One.


But not only for us.  What good would that be if we are not also the mother of God, giving birth to love to share with people living in grief and fear in our time and place?  


No one should have to do hard things alone.  And so, Mary and Elizabeth found each other.  May we all have, may we all be, such a friend.