Fourth Sunday in Advent – Luke 1:39-56 | Mary Visits Elizabeth

INI

 

“And the angel left her”…

There she stood…

Alone amid the stillness…

Her hands touching her belly…Already beginning to swell…

 

She knows that it won’t be long now until she shows…

But what to do with all this silence?

 

She could go and find St Joseph…

Or maybe her mom, St Anne…

 

Or maybe drop to her knees, now weak with recognition…

And kiss the space once filled by Gabriel…

In answer to the question he had asked…

 

For weeks now, the Baptizer has been showing us the way…

Avoid evil…

And live mercy he cried…

 

From the broad landscape of the wilderness…

To the narrow fabric of Mary’s womb…

God’s cosmic plan has slowly been taking shape…

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But it didn’t happen by force…

It wasn’t a power play or a great act of oppression…

 

Mary could have very easily declined the offer…

 

But not when the message was so irresistible…

Not when the words were so very sweet…

 

“Rejoice, O graced one…The Lord is with you…” said the Angel…

“He is on you, for you, and soon he will be in you…”

 

“You have nothing to fear…”

“The work is mine…”

“And the gift is yours…”

“The Holy Spirit will hover over you like he hovered over the waters of creation…”
”The power of the most high will overshadow you like he once overshadowed the tabernacle…”

“And this child…”

“God’s child…”

“Your child…”

“Will save his people from their sins…”

 

The baptizer’s warning was that touching evil gave it incarnation…

But the angel’s promise is that touching Christ…gives Himincarnation…

 

Mary gives him flesh…

Joyfully…

Willingly…

Hopefully…

 

But then the angel left her…

 

Now what to do with all the silence?…

 

Well, she should be going.

 

The sacred touch of Christ…

Is a gift that is best received and best used

When it is embodied…

And so she heads with haste…

Off into the hill country to visit her aging cousin Elizabeth…

 

To be with her who was called barren…

To rejoice with a fellow graced one

 

But she doesn’t go to tell her ownstory…

She’s not off to explain to old Elizabeth how blessed she’s been…

Or how amazing it was to hear the angel speak…

 

It’s much more simple than that…

She’s there to help with the chores…

And to make some meals for when the baptizer comes, and things get hectic.

 

She’s there to be a friend…

She’s there…to be present…

 

“And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary,” says Luke, “the baby leaped in her womb…”

A simple hello…a simple presence…

That brought a most profound acclamation…

 

“Blessed are you among women” she says…

“And blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus…”

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And in a remarkably simple, ordinary way…there’s the answer to the silence…

“And the angel left her” may very well be one of the most underrated verses in all of Scripture.

It seems like a brief and momentary event.

But really, it describes for us the life of a Christian…

 

It’s not a life of thrills and visions…

But it’s a life where the angel leaves and the road before us is long…

It’s a life of following the only Son of GOd from Bethlehem to Cana…

From Jordan to Jerusalem…

And eventually from cross to tomb…

 

But along the way…

You never stop following

 

So while you may not have the angel Gabriel…

You will always have the fruit of Mary’s womb…

 

You’ll have the one who’s touched you and gifted you…

Who’s invaded and drawn near…

The one to whom Mary gives life and breath.

 

And that should make for both a profound difference in our lives…

And a profoundly different way of living them…

 

It means that the moment of annunciation…

The moment where the Spirit hovers and the power of the Most High overshadows…

The moment where the earth stands still, and all that matters is the voice spoken by the angel,

 

It means that that moment…

Is only a very small piece of a very big life…

 

It means that the angel leaves, but Christ stays put…

On you, for you, and in you.

 

So the question before us this Advent IV is simple:

What will wedo with all the silence?

 

Will we be standing still…

Or will we be going with haste into the hill country…

To be present to a world in desperate need of the one whom we bear in our bodies

You will not encounter anyone who is too evil or too far gone.

You will not speak to anyone Jesus does not love and care for.

You will not find a single person for whom Jesus was not crucified.

 

Because a God who would impregnate a poor, unmarried, young woman…

And then send an old relative to call her “Blessed among women”…

Will stoop to almost anything…                                        Willimon, PR, Dec 24, 2000

 

Even loving folks like us…

Even pushing us through the narrow straits of advent

To the wide open places of incarnation…

And mercy…

And joy…

And life…

 

And while it seems inconceivable…

It’s not absurd…

It’s true…

As true as the baptizer who was given to old Elizabeth…

As true as the virgin whom the angel left…

As true as the babe about to be born in Bethlehem…

As true as the touch of Christ given as a gift again today…

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So let’s be going now…

With haste into the hill country…

9 months of pregnancy in just three days…

 

But tomorrow night the silence will cease…

And the angels will return…

The virgin will give birth…

A child will cry out in the night…

 

And once again there will be traffic between God and man…

But it will be entirely one way…

 

It will be Emmanuel – God with us…

God for us, and on us, and in us – now and forevermore…

In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

 

*Thanks to Christian Century, 2009, William Willimon, and the Rev. Dr. Joshua Genig

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