Luke 1:39-45 (NRSV)
Mary Visits Elizabeth
39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be[a] a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
This is the perfect Gospel reading for the last Sunday of Advent…
The joy of the season is expressed in the story of the baby leaping for joy in Elizabeth’s womb! The baby who would one day be known as John the Baptist…the one who proclaimed the coming of Christ in the wilderness!
As single parents, with Christmas fast approaching (maybe too fast) we too may feel as if we are in our own wilderness, of frustration and stress as we may be trying to do too much in too little time in order to prepare, and to ensure that our children have a good holiday while meeting family, work and social obligations!! In the midst of our busy-ness we can easily forget the joy of anticipation, the joy that was expressed by Elizabeth’s baby, the joy that is shared by children of all ages at the coming of Christmas!
Today’s Gospel is a reminder of that joy, the best of the holiday: the excitement many of us felt as children when December was growing darker and colder, but the world seemed brighter with hope, as Christmas lights came on all over the neighborhood, Advent Wreaths were lit, and parties filled the nights with music and good cheer!
This excitement may have faded for us as we got older and caught up in more ‘grown-up’ pursuits of work, higher education, friends and relationships, and the trials of facing life on life’s terms. Perhaps some of the magic returned when we found a ‘significant other’ and then grew stronger when we had children of our own. I remember how excited my daughter was for Christmas when she was younger, and how her excitement helped to see my through the holidays the first few years after the divorce and when money was too tight to afford much in the way of presents or celebrations!
However, for some of us, as our children got older and headed through the teen-years and into adulthood, that magic may have begun to wear thin again…if not completely disappear. For some of us the holidays became more of a hill to climb than a sleigh ride through the snow (as if winter-storms ever made the holidays easier). The days are dark, the traffic is terrible, and many people seem to be in bad moods, as they too become filled with holiday and end of year stress! Just ask any retail worker or customer service person, and they will tell you that most of their days this time of year are filled with upset and frustrated people, with anything but Christmas Spirit in their hearts!
Yet, that Spirit is still with us…sometimes we just need to stop and take a moment to reconnect with the joy, the anticipation, the excitement of the good news of Christmas: that God is with us, and Christ is alive in our world today and always!! We can take these moments while driving at night, and seeing the lights that adorn the houses, a custom that goes far back into our past, when people lit bon-fires and filled their houses with candle and lantern light to ward off the darkness and call the light back into the world!
We can reconnect with the Spirit in church, listening to the scriptures or well-loved carols, sharing worship together with others. The Spirit can also come upon us at an office party or with friends as we take time to celebrate the season and each other. Even just taking time to listen to Christmas music on the radio, or watch a holiday movie can give us the chance to pause and remember the joy!
And of course, time spent with our children, no matter how old they are, no matter what we are doing: talking, shopping, celebrating…can remind us of the love that was given to us as a free gift, through Jesus, who was God come to live with us, as one of us! Jesus, who was in humility, in a dug-out stable, but changed the world as he was the light of God’s love shining in the darkness, giving us all hope!
So, as Christmas approaches, let us set aside the stress and worry, the busy-ness and the frustration, and remember the joy that Christmas still holds for us, as it is a celebration of God’s love given for all people, a love we are called to share with the world, a love that we can see in the eyes of our children!
Let us Pray:
Dear God, thank you for the great gift of Jesus, the baby born in a manger, who changed the world! Help us to remember the joy of Christmas that we felt as children, and the magic that shone (and may still shine) in the eyes of our own children at this time of year. Let us put aside resentments, worry and stress, and embrace those we love, and even those we don’t with compassion and caring…for this is how we share the Spirit of Christmas, today and every day of the year!