The Fourth Sunday of Advent
Reflection By: Amy Cook
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.”
I have a lot to learn from Elizabeth.
Luke’s gospel begins with Zechariah and Elizabeth, both described as “righteous” people but childless. In their day, children were the sign of God’s blessing and their lack of a child specifically cast doubt on Elizabeth. She is the one labeled “barren” and she must live with this shame and suspicion even though she is known for blameless living. Zechariah is chosen by chance that year as the priest to enter the holiest place in the temple. While in this holiest of places an angel appears and says that Elizabeth is going to have a son. Zechariah immediately questions the angel and is struck mute for his doubting until the baby is born. Elizabeth does conceive and in her sixth month Mary comes to visit.
I imagine at the time of Mary’s visit Elizabeth is bursting with news. Her place in society has changed. She is no longer looked at with suspicion or pity. By having a child, Elizabeth erases the whispers of God’s punishment. This is probably the most exciting time of her life, but she is now married to a man who can’t talk! In this moment of extreme joy and new life, Elizabeth and Mary meet and I’m sure she is longing for conversation.
If I were Elizabeth in this moment, I would have been tempted to run to Mary and start gushing about the greatest thing that has ever happened in my life. But Elizabeth does something different. She doesn’t monopolize the conversation or even treat Mary as the relative who must listen to her news. Instead, Elizabeth generously affirms Mary’s (the unwed teen) pregnancy. Elizabeth generously puts her own good news second, speaking prophetic words as the Holy Spirit moves in her. Her body reacts as she feels her child within her and accepts that as joy and perhaps confirmation that her own baby news didn’t need to be first in the moment.
I wonder how I can be more generous with creating a space for the good news of others? I’m sure that Elizabeth had plenty of time to talk with Mary and share her thoughts and feelings, but in the moment of their meeting, Elizabeth didn’t need to be first. And because she generously created this open space in her heart and head, the Holy Spirit filled in with prophetic words and Mary responded with a new song, literally.
Follow along with us this Advent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.
In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.