Fourth Sunday of Advent 2015
It has been a long and quiet Advent in the house of Zechariah. And really, not just quiet, but silent. You’ll remember that the good news brought to Zechariah by Gabriel seemed too good to be true. He could not believe that his older, barren wife, Elizabeth, would soon be pregnant – let alone with a child who would prepare the way of the Lord. And the penalty for his speaking out in disbelief was that for a time he would not speak at all. Gabriel made Zechariah mute not just until John’s birth, but until the very day of his circumcision.
For a while, at least, some quiet time in the house probably seemed like a gift. Pregnancy is hard enough in your twenties, so at her age Elizabeth was probably grateful for the rest. Pastors are known to talk a lot, and so maybe a bit of silence helped keep the stress levels to a minimum. But there’s a downside there, too.
Given the circumstances, Elizabeth knows that her pregnancy is special. But with a husband who can’t talk, it isn’t clear that she knows precisely why. For Elizabeth the big picture may still seem quite small. The best part about this gift is still waiting to burst forth from Zechariah’s lips, but when his mouth opens, nothing comes out.
Our lives are full of miracles that, while joyful, stress us out, and create the desire for some quiet time. We have one named Lucia. While children are probably the example par excellence, they are not the only example. Zechariah is the husband of Elizabeth, but remember that he is also a priest.
Zechariah is charged to speak God’s Word. And maybe when you’re married to guy, or even if you just happen to see him and hear him a lot, that Word can be taken for granted. Even though it is a miracle that God’s Word is spoken among us at all, sometimes that miracle is too much of a hassle to go to church and hear, or too much of a labor to go to Bible Study and learn. Sometimes the quiet seems preferable to the sound.
But when Mary came with God’s Word, in her womb and on her lips, the silence was broken! “And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
Mothers know their children, even in the womb. And so Elizabeth knows that the baby inside her is not leaping because she ate all the candy canes off the Christmas tree. This is a leap for joy; joy because the Word of God has come near, because the Word has been given a voice, because it has hit her ears.
Jesus has come! First from heaven to earth, and now from Nazareth to Judea. All four of those candles are lit! The Light of the World is shining brightly, piercing the darkness, and breaking the silence, bringing Good News and joy, and new meaning.
Mary’s Child gives new meaning to the life of Elizabeth’s child; and yet not only to Elizabeth’s child. In the light of Jesus, in a world now consecrated by His presence, and filled with His Gospel, everything is more than it once was.
When Jesus comes, all life takes on new meaning, and greater purpose. Mary is blessed above all women because of the Holy Child inside her. Which means that Jesus’ presence makes you more, and not less.
And for you Jesus is more than present. You are baptized! Jesus has actually joined you to His own Body! He has brought you into His own death and His own resurrection. He speaks to you; in His Word, in His holy absolution. He puts Himself into your hands and into your mouth, here in His Holy Eucharist.
In every way imaginable, and in ways unimaginable, in ways that could only come from the mind of God Himself, Jesus lives inside you, and works through you. You bring light into the darkness. You bring God’s Word into silence. You bring the joy of Jesus into a world full of despair. Every one of you, the people in whom Christ dwells, you have become a way for others to know and live in the Joy of Jesus.
So, all this means that we ought to be heading off with haste into the hill country as well, to bear this living Christi in the midst of a dying world. Because, a God who would make pregnant a poor, unmarried, young woman, and then send her to an old relative to call her “blessed among women,” that God would stoop to almost anything. (Genig, 2009…)
Even loving folks like us. Even pushing us through the narrow straits of a silent 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 babe about to be born in Bethlehem, as true as the touch of Christ given as a gift again today.
So let’s be going now, with haste, into the hill country. 9 months of pregnancy in just four days. But Thursday night, the silence will cease, and the angels will return. The virgin will give birth. The 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.