In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country,40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit42and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.

43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
I must confess that the first thought that struck me when I looked up today’s reading was ‘why did I get Mary and Elizabeth this year while Margaret (last week’s preacher) got John the Baptist?’
In as much as I do feel I’ve dealt with John adequately (and some would say more than adequately) over the years, I must admit that I do feel a certain kinship with John. He’s feisty, erratic, unpredictable, very male, and capable of doing crazy and offensive things. Truly he is a man after my own heart! Mary, on the other hand, is gentle, feminine, and, in this scene from Luke chapter one in particular, she is concerned with matters that seem to fall very squarely under the banner of ‘women’s business’!
According to Luke chapter one, Mary is somewhere in the hill country of Judea, visiting her cousin, Elizabeth, who is also pregnant.
This is something that women are apt to do during their pregnancies – get together with other women who are also pregnant, most particularly with other pregnant members of the family. These sorts of get-togethers tend to be women-only affairs in my experience, and for understandable reasons.
The two women (who are both first-time mothers-to-be) wish to talk about their experiences of pregnancy with someone who speaks their language. They want to support each other, and they are uniquely positioned to do so. They understand each other. They share a common experience, and it is one that I do not have, have never had and will never have! What am I doing here?!
I’m sure many of you who are husbands have had that awkward experience of accompanying your wife into a shop that sells women’s underwear. You’re not sure where to look! I feel similarly awkward being privy to this scene!
The two women are going to talk about their pregnancies and Elizabeth indeed begins the conversation by giving details of the intra-uterine contractions that she experiences at the moment of Mary’s arrival! ‘Too much information’ is my immediate reaction!
Could not Margaret have dealt more sensitively with this passage?
But in truth, while I do feel that John is ‘one of the boys’, I think my sense of connection with him is really somewhat illusory. What would I know about being a Nazarite and living on bush tucker! And if the connection with John is somewhat remote, I suspect that the common ground that we share with Mary – that any of us shares with Mary – is similarly miniscule indeed!
What would we know about being a woman in first century Palestine?
I appreciate that there have been worse periods for women in history than in 1st century Palestine, and I appreciate that things are far from perfect for women in our world today, but the gulf between the experience of the 21st Century Australian woman and her 1st century Palestinian counterpart is vast!

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