Order of Worship to go with the following reflection: Bulletin-12-18-2022 A4 YA
Scripture: Luke 1:39-45 (46-55)
Let us pray:
O Divine Mystery, as we prepare for your coming, open our hearts and illumine these scriptures by your Holy Spirit – that we may learn and do your will, following in the way of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Mary knew something about love. I would hazard a guess that many first time mothers and fathers do; it involves a deep and compassionate acceptance of who we are becoming as parents and the overwhelming state of bringing a new life into the world. For Mary, however, there was a whole other level. She was pledged to Joseph, yes. But she also pledged to become the handmaiden of God, chosen vessel of God’s child, God’s incarnate life on earth! I imagine upon reflection she may have been a little bit more scared than her initial “let it be unto me as you have said.”
Here I depart for a moment from classical commentary on this scripture. Where can she go for wisdom, insight, and support? For confirmation that she can do this? To whom can she turn, her mother? Especially if word gets out about irregularities in the accepted roadmap for marriage and the beginning of family life in her culture?
We read, “In those days Mary set out and went with haste.” Where does she go? To Elizabeth, also unusually pregnant, married to a priest serving the Temple. Elizabeth, of more years and experience, becomes for her a “safe” haven as she finds out what to do, and what she may need for her own impending life’s journey as mother – mother not only of a child but mother of God. Mary stays with Elizabeth all during her first trimester of pregnancy. Scripture tells us Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months before returning home; no doubt soaking in all the wisdom offered by a family tied to the Temple yet at the same time the practical lesson of witnessing the final trimester of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. But why do I share all this homey illustrations? Isn’t there a deeper meaning for our faith in this story?
Devotional writer Emmy Arnold once wrote, “Wherever the Christmas Child is born in a heart, wherever Jesus begins his earthly life anew – that is where the life of God’s love and of God’s peace dawns again.”
I am reminded there are times in our lives when we feel like love has gone dormant. Those are not easy times, and often require us to seek the blessings of help in learning to love again. Similarly, there are times in the spiritual life when it feels like God – who is love – seems far away from us, and we wonder, why? Why does God not stay with us and keep us safe in love for always? Perhaps the answer lies in the metaphor of dormancy. Not that God has gone dormant, but perhaps in our very finite human moments, our hearts have gone dormant. God has not left us, but perhaps our ability to perceive where God is for a time leaves us – when we find ourselves in challenging times of transition, where often some necessary pruning takes place in our lives.
I wonder, what would it mean for us to bear God’s love into the world today? Johann Arnold has something to say about that:
“It means fighting the impulse to live for ourselves, instead of for others. It means choosing generosity over greed. It also means living humbly, rather than seeking influence and power. Finally, it means being ready to die again and again – to ourselves, and to every self-serving opinion or agenda.”
The revolutionary words of Elizabeth and Mary speak to this. Mary’s magnificat is a turning upside down of the status quo. Rich going away empty, the hungry filled with good things, powerful knocked out of their thrones, and the lowly lifted up. For them, it is hope for a reversal of real and present poverty as a subjugated people. For the underdogs of the world, the text can be music to the ears. However, to the seats of power, this is a tough reading, easily counter to the design of holding on to power indefinitely.
We are, in many cases, the victors and the powerful, as such we have three tasks here. One, admit how it is. Two, seek justice for those who need it. Three, seek the deeper message we can relate and share: the perspective of a spiritually subjugated people. Where are our own spirits most tied down in current times? Where can we find wholeness in this busy season and in these times? If God sent us a prophetic message today, what would it be? Could we even hear and understand the importance of the prophet’s voice: “From you, O Bethlehem, shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel…” (Micah 5:2)?
When that One comes, will we once more learn what true sovereignty and kin-ship is supposed to be? Or has that One already come, into our own hearts and set our souls to singing? What is your song this Advent season? “There is more love, somewhere…” A year of change has brought you this far; now rest and wait in love’s patient stillness for Christ’s coming. Let us all offer ourselves to be vessels of our Creator’s love to the world once more – in the name of Jesus, Mary’s son. Amen? May it be so.
 Emmy Arnold, “Christmas Joy,” in Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas (Farmington, PA: Plough Publishing House, 2001). 129
 Johann Christoph Arnold, “Be Not Afraid,” in Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas (Farmington, PA: Plough Publishing House, 2001). 156-157