Technically, Advent is over, but as I’ve said before, even though the Christ child has come, in a way, we are still waiting. We wait with hope. We wait with peace. We wait with love.
And today, we wait with joy.
Today as we celebrate with joy the coming of the Christ child, let’s jump back nine-ish months in his new life and eavesdrop on a scene that is dripping with joy.
I’ve always been fascinated with Elizabeth, John the Baptist’s mother. Initially it was because we have the same name. As time went on though, I began to dig deeper into her story. Every year at Christmas my ears would perk up as we turned once again to the first chapter of Luke and heard her story. A woman well past childbearing years—a woman well-acquainted with waiting and hoping—is chosen to carry, birth, and nurture John the Baptist, the announcer of Jesus.
When her cousin Mary comes to visit, the Holy Spirit falls upon Elizabeth and she is overtaken with wonder and certainty that the Christ is in the room. Still tiny in the womb, the presence of God fills the space between and within these women. John leaps for joy within Elizabeth and she sings forth in joyful praise and humility that God would choose her for such an honor.
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…
…And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
—Luke 1:39-45, NRSV
Faithful, obedient Mary.
Elizabeth sings this praise over her—it bubbles out in joy—and Mary replies with a song of her own:
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his descendants forever.”
—Luke 1:46-55, NRSV
It’s a difficult thing for me to understand. I’ve felt happiness, surely. But joy? What I see exchanged and poured forth out of both Mary and Elizabeth is certainly much, much deeper than happiness and amazement. It’s uncontainable. It’s praise. It’s expressed and shared and celebrated.
As I’ve journeyed with you through Advent I find myself here with these women once again and I am thrilled to discover that I can feel their joy pulsing within me. I can feel their joy, because it is my joy and it can be your joy, too.
What does Elizabeth say of Mary?
“Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
Our faith is strengthened on this Christmas day as we remember, again, that Christ has come just as God promised.
Fully God. Fully human. Christ lives and the Kingdom of God has come. The Holy Spirit is with us as we journey forward as pilgrims in the faith. We look to Jesus and understand the love that God has for the earth and all who are in it. We sigh in relief as we look around and see the light of the peace that Christ brings shining into the world. We walk faithfully on, joining in hope with the countless other witnesses, like Mary and Elizabeth, who have stepped on the path and are following Christ. Loving and being loved by God.
This, friends, is a reason to rejoice.
Yes, there is pain. Yes, fires are burning. Yes, cancer is ravaging. Yes, hate and fear threaten to rip us apart from our neighbors.
These things should grieve us. They should move us to be comforters and peacemakers.
As people of the cross, we proclaim that these things do not have the final word. We walk alongside a God who lived among us. A lowly baby born amongst barn animals to two awe-struck parents. A baby whose birth was celebrated by the angels, the shepherds, and people who journeyed from across the world to see his light. A baby who was scooped up in his parents’ arms as they fled the terror of Herod. A baby who began his life seeking refuge. So innocent, so helpless. A baby who grew into a child and then into a man. A man who took it upon himself to proclaim good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom for the oppressed. A man who was tortured on a cross because of the type of kingdom he ushered in. A man who died and rose three days later. A risen man who cooked breakfast for his friends who he loved. A risen man who relieved Peter, his denier, of guilt and shame and affirmed him to be the Rock upon which the church is built.
Christ has come.
Christ is here.
Christ will come again.
Go now in hope and peace and love and joy.
This post originally appeared on the Smyth & Helwys blog, Coracle; I invite you to explore their site and discover the many wonderful writers and thinkers that contribute there. You can read my original post here.