Dearest Members of Bethlehem,
“In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 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.’” -Luke 1:39-43
The above is a longer passage than we usually entertain in one of these devotions, but I’ll risk stretching things a bit, as this might just be the perfect bit of scripture to set the tone for the remainder of Advent.
First, you will note that in these verses both Mary and Elizabeth have the wisdom to celebrate in a season of anticipation. Neither John nor Jesus have been born, and yet both Mary and Elizabeth are filled with anticipatory joy. This is a gentle reminder to us, that we may reach the fullness of our celebration on Christmas Eve, but there’s no reason to hold back until then. We ought to find both comfort and joy as we live into each new day.
Next, as is evidenced by the verses above, we trust that we will not need to manufacture that spirit of joy. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and it was then she offered her words of praise and thanksgiving. God is at our work in our lives inspiring the moments of prayer, the expressions of gratitude, and the joy-filled singing of carols. And all that makes this a distinctly “spiritual” season.
And finally, note Elizabeth’s genuine sense of wonder, Elizabeth’s expression of expansive hospitality, and her generous affirmation of Mary and the “fruit of her [Mary’s] womb.” But wait, Elizabeth is expecting too! Elizabeth has also had quite the spiritual experience, and she is still in the process of thinking through how to best care for the fruit of her womb.
And yet, Elizabeth doesn’t give us even the slightest impression that she is in any way self-consumed. In fact, Elizabeth is open to welcoming even more joy into her life. As we make our way through the season of Advent, Elizabeth provides a faithful model and witness for all of us.
To get the most out of the days ahead, we too will need to maintain a sense of wonder and be open to the joy that perpetually swirls about us.
Question for reflection: Could we possibly entertain a question similar to the one that Elizabeth asked, “Why has this happened to me, that my Lord comes to me?”
Yours in Christ,
Gracious Lord, strengthen and encourage us as we prepare for the celebration of Christmas. We pray that in the days ahead there would be more singing than stress, more prayer than pressure, and more celebration than consternation. Grant us the perspective necessary to remain focused on the more important matters in this sacred season. All this we pray in the name of the One who is coming, Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.