“For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord” (Luke 1:44-45)
There are certain persons in our lives who, when we see them, hear their voice, or just remember them, it can just bring a smile to our face, turn a rotten day into something special, or just make all thing joyous. They are the ones who can make us laugh when there is nothing to laugh about. They are the ones for and with whom bear hugs of greetings are just the thing. They are the ones we haven’t seen in years and yet it just seems like yesterday when we meet again. They are the one with whom we have common history, joys and sorrows, with whom we have weathered many a storm; the ones we trust absolutely. Who are those persons for you? Take a moment and bring their faces to your thoughts. I’ll wait….
And such is Mary for Elizabeth and Elizabeth for Mary. The moment Elizabeth heard Mary’s voice, both her own heart and the babe in her womb leaped for joy. Mary undoubtedly felt the same.
Elizabeth has prayed all her life for a child, and no doubt – given the norms and understandings of her day – has spent a good many years enduring the sideways looks and whispers from villager – “What has she done that God would punish her by keeping her barren all these years. It must have been bad.” And now old, beyond child-bearing age, when the gossip has long since been endured, when the supple limberness of muscle and bone are past, when life’s energies are a little lower and naps a little longer – it is now that she discovers she is with child. It certainly would have been more convenient 20 or 30 years earlier.
Mary, perhaps only 14 or 15 years old. Only just betrothed – and given the norms and understanding of her day – she is unmarried and pregnant. Who knows what gossip spread in her home village of Nazareth? People love to gossip, especially about a condition which bespeaks of a violation of God’s law, one punishable by stoning. It all certainly would have been better if God has waited a year. But the divine plan of God is in play, and who else would understand the unfolding of such mystery? Only Elizabeth.
No wonder Elizabeth is such source of joy for Mary. As is said of Elizabeth in Luke 1:6, she has been utterly faithful to God all her life, She is the perfect confidant and companion for Mary. The whole of a life of faith, of trust, now on rich display here in the sixth month of an long-awaited pregnancy. A life that endured the disappointment, the whispers, and the doubts. A life which knows that the mystery of God is only slowly revealed to us. Elizabeth is the one Mary needs to see. The one whose voice Mary needed to hear, the face she needed to see – the one whose pregnancy would be an enduring sign that the Angel Gabriel’s words were true – it wasn’t all a dream. Maybe in the midst of all these changes, the ground unsure beneath her feet, Mary needed to speak with the one she trusted absolutely; to speak to one who would help her understand this new revelation of God’s plan. And when they meet, they can not contain their Spirit filled joy.
And so, there in the hill country of Judah, two believers, two faithful people come together. And there is Joy. “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in joy…” Mary cries out in joy, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” Both moved by the Spirit, both carrying within them life. One child to be the herald that a mighty one is to come, to announce repentance for the eternal life. The other, son of God, son of Mary, to be the source of eternal life.
It is the promise of the prophet Micah come to pass that from the least among us, from little Bethlehem, too small to be counted among the clans of Judah; that from the one considered being punished by God with barrenness; and that from the least of all, a young unknown maiden from Nazareth – and what good can come from Nazareth? – from all these small and unnoticed places and people, comes the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. So many important thing unfolding out of sight, in the small places, on the edge of the empire, voices of joy among those considered the least.
And in the midst of a promised fulfilled is the Spirit of God, evidence in joy. In that Spirit, the two woman come to believe, to trust that they carry within them the mysterious power of God’s life. And now they are a source of delight and blessing for each other; of delight and blessing for all the world. They are prepared for the coming of the Messiah.
And what about us in the here and now. Blessed are you, and you, and you that believe. Blessed are you who come to believe that it is exactly in your perceived smallness or unimportance lays the mysterious power of God’s life within you – the Spirit given you in baptism. That power which enables you to be a source of delight and blessing for others. To be the one whose voice, whose letter, whose email, text or tweet, is that which put a smile on another’s face. To be the conduit of the Spirit in the world; making other other’s hearts leap for joy. To be prepared for Christmas.
This is the blessing of Advent. This is the blessing of the Spirit. This is the blessing of Christmas – to let you voice be the voice of joy and blessing for others – all because the Spirit of Christ is within you. As you have been blessed, go into the world to be a blessing for others.