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Daily Devotional • December 22

Elizabeth Baumann
She Who Believes
A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 1:57-66

57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.

59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. 60 But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” 61 They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” 62 Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. 63 He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. 66 All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For indeed the hand of the Lord was with him.

There’s a line in yesterday’s gospel reading, at the end of Elizabeth’s greeting of Mary, that almost seems tacked on: “And blessed is she who believed what was spoken to her by the Lord.” It’s got a hint almost of irony, coming from Elizabeth, whose husband has been mute since his own annunciation, because he did not believe. 

Even so, I think we often react by asking, “Who wouldn’t believe if an angel came to them?”, as if we’d do better. Yet we see this failure over and over in Scripture. The Israelites are given the deliverance from Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea, the manna and the quail — they fail to believe. When the rich man in Hades asks Abraham to warn his brothers, he’s told if they don’t believe the Scriptures, a messenger from heaven won’t make any difference.

Mary and Elizabeth are blessed — and we continue to bless them — not because they don’t ask any questions. But because, when they still can’t possibly fully understand, and they don’t know what it’s going to cost, they let God in. 

In Mary’s case, she doesn’t hold anything back from God. It doesn’t matter what she understands and believes about just how Jesus will be conceived, or what she may imagine about her life going forward. What matters is that she believes God is good, and she’s willing to hold onto him going into the unknown. 

And it’s what matters to us too: wherever God leads us, whatever he puts into our paths, all he asks is that we continue to believe in his goodness, providence, and love. Rainer Maria Rilke said it like this, in his poem, “The Unspeaking Center”: 

She who reconciles the ill-matched threads
of her life, and weaves them gratefully
into a single cloth —
it’s she who drives the loudmouths from the hall
and clears it for a different celebration

where the one guest is You.

Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.

Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

Church of the Good Shepherd, Lookout Mountain, Tennessee
The Diocese of Okigwe North – The Church of Nigeria 
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