We are now very near Christmas, and the gospel reading today takes us back to the time when Mary and Elizabeth shared the news of their expected babies. The visit of Gabriel to Mary must have filled her with wonder but also with alarm. How would she cope with her situation? A woman who became pregnant outside marriage, in that society, could be stoned. What was her fiancé Joseph going to say? Her generosity in going to help Elizabeth, who was in her sixth month of pregnancy, was amply rewarded. Elizabeth, inspired by the Holy Spirit, was the first to publicly acknowledge her kinswomen as the mother of the Saviour. Mary would have been able to talk freely to the older woman, who would soon bear the child that would prepare the way for her son. Elizabeth would reassure and protect her as would her husband, the priest Zachariah. They would advise the young girl who was barely out of chilhood herself. They would rejoice together in what the God had done for them.
God had worked in Jewish history, through different women, to bring about the incarnation of his Son. Tamar, daughter-in-law of Judah, risked her life to continue his line. Ruth unselfishly followed her mother-in-law to Bethlehem, and in marrying Naomi’s kinsman Boaz became the great-grandmother of King David. Bathsheba, his wife, ensured that her son Solomon would succeed him, though David had committed a great sin in seducing the wife of Uriah. God works through human frailty as well as virtue. Lastly, a young Jewish woman from a small, unimportant village, in a country under Roman occupation, was chosen to be the means of bringing God’s promise to fulfilment.