After being told about her cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy, Mary set out at once to visit her—a wonderful example of how eager she was to serve, to give, to be of use to others. Right?
Well, yes and no. The story is rich with meaning at many levels and has a lot to teach us both about Mary and about our own lives as Christians. No doubt Mary did want to help and support her cousin, but Elizabeth already had a supportive community of friends and neighbors. If it were simply a matter of lending a helping hand, Mary’s company would have been welcome but hardly indispensable. Much more is going on.
Look at it for a moment from Mary’s point of view. She was young and in a very vulnerable position. She could have faced death by stoning when her pregnancy was discovered. Yes, she was without sin and had just received extraordinary news from an angel. We don’t want to say she doubted what the angel said or that she didn’t trust in God to care for her as she took on the responsibilities of motherhood. But, sinless though she was, she did not float above the trials of life, conversing constantly with angels; she was human. Her whole world had been radically shaken up in a moment. Mary needed someone to talk with—someone who would understand.
Elizabeth was the perfect person. The fact that the angel had informed Mary of her cousin’s pregnancy was clearly an indication that their...