Christmas meant role reversal for Mary and Elizabeth (1:39-45).
Mary comes from a hamlet; Elizabeth is from a hill town in Judah, where her husband, a priest, had a house so he could manage his way to the Temple when on duty. The hamlet woman greets the Temple woman (1:40). Entirely appropriate for Mary to greet Elizabeth.
What reverses their roles however is what is said next: “Blessed are you among women… why am I so favored, that the mother of the my Lord should come to me?” The Temple woman now gives way to the hamlet woman. The Temple woman places herself in the role of a servant; the hamlet woman finds herself suddenly being blessed. (There will be a clear relationship of Jesus to the Temple, and it will not be unlike the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth.)
Reversal is powered by the Holy Spirit: Mary doesn’t plan this; Elizabeth doesn’t plan this. What occurs here is the work of the Holy Spirit. When Elizabeth sees Mary at the door she plans the obvious: greetings and welcoming and chatting and eating and fellowshipping. And then suddenly, as if a rush of the Spirit as at Pentecost, Elizabeth is caught up in song by the Holy Spirit. This is what Anthony Smith, a fellow blogger, calls “practicing Pentecost.” Suddenly, age and roles don’t matter: the Spirit swallows up our categories and takes them to a new level.
Elizabeth is less concerned with her own child than she is with the child of Mary – anticipating yet one more theme of the Gospels: the infinite value of giving one’s life to Jesus and worshiping him and living for him. She blesses Mary for believing the angelic announcement. Elizabeth sees in Mary’s baby her own “Lord.”
Reversal is seen with John too: he’s older than Jesus (both pre-natal) but John is already excited about the presence of Jesus. John leaps in the womb in the presence of Mary’s baby.
Christmas is laced up with reversal: a baby who becomes Lord; a perfect Son who will be crucified; hamlet folk who rear royalty; Temple folk who are silenced; Temple folk who worship the baby of hamlet folk; Temple priests who are silenced and women folk who are filled with inspired speech. You can no doubt find more.
Christmas is not what we’d like it to be: it is what God makes it.