Mary’s experience of expectation of the birth of Christ is written down and summarized in what is called Mary’s Song, the Magnificat. What can we learn from two women of faith, Mary and Elizabeth?
Let us understand that Mary’s message and Elizabeth’s words are relevant for Advent today.
We will look at Advent’s message of faith, a spirit-filled blessing and hope for the poor.
Advent’s message: faith
Zechariah may have been a high priest but Gabriel said that he lacked faith, doubting the angel’s message. So, he was struck speechless until his son, John the Baptist was born. Gabriel also foretold Christ’s birth to Mary and she said, let it be according to your word. She was an ordinary peasant girl, but she believed and was blessed. This contrast of faith between those exalted in this world and those of humble backgrounds is a backdrop to the Magnificat, Mary’s Song of Faith (Luke 1:39-56). Mary sang that God is mindful of humble people. She sounded out, my soul magnifies God who favors those who honor him. She caroled that God scatters the proud and brings down rulers, but he exalts the humble. Mary sang that God fills the hungry but sends the rich away empty.
Elizabeth’s spirit-filled experience
Speaking in an unknown language is not necessarily the “initial evidence” of being filled with the spirit. Elizabeth’s experience contradicts that theory. She was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in a known language (Luke 1:39-56). She said what is now a famous expression repeated often as a prayer: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Others were spirit filled and evidenced craftsmanship (Exodus 31:3; 35:31), movement in a mother’s womb (Luke 1:15), prophecy (Luke 1:67-68), being led into the wilderness (Luke 4:1), known tongues (Acts 2:4), wisdom (Acts 6:3-5), saw visions (Acts 7:55), healing (Acts 9:17-20), missionary feats (Acts 11:24), insight (Acts 13:9-10) and joy (Acts 13:52). Tongues experiences exist but are not always evidence of being spirit-filled.
Advent’s message: hope for the poor
Modern interpreters love to spread doubt, such as claiming that the Magnificat was not written by Mary. Mary’s song could have easily been written down while she spent three months at Elizabeth’s home during her pregnancy. The introduction clearly states, “And Mary said” (Luke 1:39-56) and is supported by many scholars. It is a song of outrageous faith that dares to believe that the poor will be saved, even though they continue to be trodden down, even in our day. It is a message of hope in present and continuing oppression by the powerful. It dares to claim that the rich are in reality empty and that the humble are filled with good things. The birth of the Savior of the world in a stable to poor peasants is a continual reminder of God turning things upside down.
 Henry, Hugh. "Magnificat." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 22 Dec. 2012 http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09534a.htm.
Mary and Elizabeth teach us a message of faith, spirit-filled blessings and hope for the poor. As we prepare for Christ’s Advent let us remember the lessons taught by these two women of faith.