Bulletin: December 23, 2018
Fourth Sunday of Advent
There is a spirit of audacity in our readings today. During a time of injustice and threat of invasion, the prophet Micah boldly announces that the God of insignificant Israel will raise up a leader from backwater Bethlehem, and this leader will bring justice and peace to the whole world. In the Gospel, Elizabeth and Mary, marginalized women, brazenly celebrate that their sons will be world-changing instruments of God. We further learn that this audacity is rooted in trust in God. The author of Hebrews describes the faithful obedience of Jesus. Mary is shown as the exemplar of faithful trust in God. This is the way God often seems to work, in the ordinary and marginalized in our world. Those who seem weak have learned to trust in God’s strength. These have the audacity to become instruments of God’s peace and justice.
FROM SCANDAL TO HONOR
The meeting of Mary and Elizabeth follows a strong tradition of women in their culture, to come together to support each other during pregnancy. Mary likely carried a shadow of scandal in her pregnancy, since it began before her marriage. Elizabeth, having carried her own burden of social disapproval after many years without children, sees only cause for celebration. Elizabeth sees beyond the social shame of Mary’s situation to observe how God is working, and how Mary has accepted joining in this work.
Unlike Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah, who thought it unbelievable that God could bring them a son, Mary believed the angel’s message. Elizabeth honors Mary, in part, for simply being able to imagine that God could do this extraordinary thing through her. Perhaps God had been preparing Mary’s heart throughout her young life, so that she could be fully receptive to God’s specific call when the time was right. Mary opened herself to an uncertain future, trusting that God would accompany her in the joys and sorrows of being the mother of Jesus.
PREGNANT WITH GOD
Advent, as a time of preparation for Christmas, echoes the pregnancy of Mary. Something is stirring within us, and we await the coming of Jesus. Although we the Church have observed Advent and Christmas many times, God is always offering something new to us. Like the angel asked Mary, God is always asking us to allow Christ to be born in and through us. Christ wishes to make himself at home within us, and increase his presence in our hearts.
Like pregnancy, at times God’s activity within us can be disorienting and confusing. The story of Elizabeth and Mary reminds us that however uncertain we may be about what God is up to in our lives, we have cause to rejoice—because God is indeed good, and will truly bring blessing to us. And through the fruit of our own wombs, God will bring blessing to the world.
Today’s Readings: Mic 5:1–4a; Ps 80:2–3, 15–16, 18–19; Heb 10:5–10; Lk 1:39–45