Advent 4 – Years A B & C – When Elizabeth met Mary

When Elizabeth met Mary
Luke 1 39-45(46-55)

This is material I put together for an informal service of the word on the Fourth Sunday of Advent in Year C.  It could, of course, be used at other times and amended to suit you.  I hope it is of help, at least in suggesting some ideas for worship in Advent.

Mary’s story

It all began with an angel; an angel suddenly appearing in my home, shining so bright that for a moment I was blinded.  And in the light his voice – clear, calm, warm, telling me not to be afraid, that I was very dear to God who wanted me to do something very special for him.

I was to have a baby, a son.
I was to call him Jesus.
He would be a great man.
He would be called the Son of the Most High God.
God would give him the throne of David.
He would be king for ever and his kingdom would be eternal.

People used to think I was a sad and rather strange child. Maybe I was.  I was often sad that the world seemed all wrong, not as God wanted it to be.  I was often sad that people didn’t seem to be able to change things and make a difference.  They didn’t change the injustices, the poverty and the suffering.  All they would say was “Perhaps God will send someone to make things better and to right the wrongs”

I couldn’t see any point in waiting for someone else to do something, I wanted to get on and do it myself.  Perhaps I was a bit strange after all – how could a woman even begin to make a difference in the world.

So when the angel said that God wanted me to do something very special I saw at last that I could do something – all I had to do was say “yes”.

Yes to the strangest and scariest invitation;
yes to a baby whose father wouldn’t be my promised husband, Joseph;
yes to hurting Joseph and all my family;
yes to facing gossip, speculation and criticism;
yes to an unknown future.

And all because God asked me to
and I believed he would surround me
and protect me from all evil.

So I said “Yes” and I felt the power of God flow through me.

Elizabeth’s story

It all began with an angel.  An angel appearing in the holiest place in the temple to speak to my husband Zechariah.

He couldn’t tell me about it when he got home because, guess what, the angel struck him dumb when he didn’t believe what he was told.  I can understand him not believing – who would believe that a woman my age could have a son after all these years.

Thank God that, even though Zechariah did not believe, God fulfilled his promise that I would conceive.  I pray God that I will give birth safely to the promised son I now carry and we will call him John as the angel told us to.

I’ve shed many tears over my inability to have children.  In my shame and hurt I’ve often hidden from women who are pregnant or have new born babies.  My arms felt heavy carrying no weight; my heart felt empty with no child to love; my soul felt guilty although I didn’t know what we’d done to displease God.  And we must have displeased him somehow – enough for him to keep me barren.

Now all that pain is over, the wounds are slowly healing because I felt the power of God flow through me and I knew – I just knew the impossible had happened.  Praise God for whom all things are possible.

The angel told Zechariah that it will be through my son that many of the people of Israel will be called back to the Lord our God.  My son will call our people to prepare for the coming of the Lord.

Something very wonderful is happening and now Mary is coming to see me.  So young to be having a baby; so blessed that it is so; will our babies recognise each other for surely their destinies are inextricably entwined in God’s plan for his people?

Suggested Order of Service

If using this please remember to add at the end of the service sheet the following:
New Patterns for Worship, material from which is included in this service,
is copyright © The Archbishops’ Council 2002



 We say together the words printed in bold

 Gathering to worship God


The Lord be with you
and also with you.
This is the day that the Lord has made
We will rejoice and be glad in it.

Let us worship God:
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The fourth Advent Candle is lit and a prayer is said

Come, thou long expected Jesus

 Opening Prayer 

Lord, direct our thoughts,
and teach us to pray.
Lift up our hearts to worship you
in spirit and in truth
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

Saying sorry to God


God our Father,
we come to you in sorrow for our sins.

For turning away from you,
and ignoring your will for our lives;
Father, forgive us:
save us and help us.

For behaving just as we wish,
without thinking of you;
Father, forgive us:
save us and help us.

For failing you by what we do,
and think and say;
Father, forgive us:
save us and help us.

For letting ourselves be drawn away from you
by temptations in the world about us;
Father, forgive us:
save us and help us.

For living as if we were ashamed to belong to your Son;
Father, forgive us:
save us and help us.

May the God of love
bring us back to himself,
forgive us our sins,
and assure us of his eternal love
in Jesus Christ our Lord.   Amen.

Hearing and responding to the Word of God

Readings and Discussion

Elizabeth’s story  

Mary’s story 

Elizabeth and Mary meet
Reading:     Luke 1.39-45

The Angel Gabriel from heaven came

What do these two women have in common and how do they differ?

For leader only
When Elizabeth met Mary – Discussion points

What do these two women have in common and how do they differ?
Any thoughts after listening to their stories?

Time for congregation to discuss it between themselves
Ask for feedback: 

Mary                                                              Elizabeth
Young                                                            Older, past child-bearing years
Not married                                                    Married to a priest –  respectable
Cause of embarrassment, shame?                Childless – embarrassment, shame
Unexpected pregnancy                                  Unexpected pregnancy
Foretold by an angel                                       Foretold by an angel
   to Mary                                                          to Zechariah

A little afraid?                                                  A little afraid?

Bound together by knowledge of being part of God’s plan and who their sons might be.

Mary’s Hymn of Praise

Refrain:      My spirit rejoices
                    in God my Saviour.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;

My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.

For he has looked with favour on his lowly servant,
from this day all generations will call me blessèd.

The Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name. R

He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm;
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and he has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty. R

He has come to the help of his servant, Israel,
for he has remembered his promise of mercy.

The promise he made to our forebears;
to Abraham and his children for ever. R 

Choir/All:  Hymn or Anthem based on the Magnificat

Talk:  Turning the world upside down

Mary’s beautiful song of praise and thanksgiving
Said or sung every day at Evening Prayer or Evensong
Does its joy and beauty and familiarity form a mist
around the truly revolutionary actions of God.

Yes, the Lord is great and does great things for us.
His name is holy.
He is strong yet shows mercy to those who acknowledge him.

Those who are hungry will find all their hungers satisfied.
Those who are lowly and faithful will be blessed.
He will remember and keep the promises he made
to our mothers and fathers in faith.

But the proud are going to be knocked off the pedestal of their own making.
The powerful who lord it over the powerless are going to be overthrown.
Those who have more than enough to eat and drink and who own far more than they could possibly need – they will lose it all and be left with nothing.

Mary’s message about a God who turns the world upside down is the message that her Son proclaims throughout his public ministry:

He breaks down barriers between men and women; between Jew and Gentile; between the rich and poor; between the powerful and the destitute; he befriends those he should be avoiding and he breaks the establishment’s rules and regulations in the interests of God’s law of love.

He calls us to do the same.
He challenges us to do the same.
He waits for us to join the revolution.

Perhaps we could also spend a little time this Advent reflecting on where Magnificat is in our lives and what it would be like to live and love in a world turned upside down by us and for us and to the glory of God.  Amen.

O Lord, all the world belongs to you


Let us pray for God’s world
and for the needs of his people.
(your own prayers for your own church and community)


God our redeemer,
who prepared the Blessed Virgin Mary
to be the mother of your Son:
grant that, as she looked for his coming as our saviour,
so we may be ready to greet him
when he comes again as our judge;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Lord’s Prayer

 Awaiting his coming in glory, let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us:

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those
    who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil,
for thine is the kingdom,
the power, and the glory
for ever and ever.   Amen.

 Hymn Hills of the north, rejoice


May the Father, who has loved the eternal Son from before the foundation of the world, shed that love upon us his children.  Amen.

May Christ who by his incarnation gathered into one things earthly and heavenly,
fill us with joy and peace.  Amen.

May the Holy Spirit, by whose overshadowing Mary became the God-bearer,
give us grace to carry the good news of Christ.  Amen.

May the Lord bless us, and preserve us from all evil, and keep us in eternal life.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
We go into the world
to walk in God’s light,
to rejoice in God’s love
and to reflect God’s glory


**If you use Mary’s Story and/or Elizabeth’s Story please could you acknowledge my authorship and perhaps give a link to this website: