Deeper and deeper, we enter the experience of the people who awaited the coming of the Messiah. The first week of Advent, we listened to the prayer of the Psalmist, then for two weeks, the words of John the Baptist; now we listen to his mother’s words, Elizabeth, who greeted Mary and the fruit of her womb Jesus with great happiness. Her excitement for Jesus’ birth inspires our own excitement for his second coming. In anticipation, they celebrated with warm greetings toward one another; toward our family members and to all, let us do the same this Christmas.
Some family members we are excited to see, to greet and to welcome. Others we may sort of dread. In our own families, there may be adults who have wounded us; who use foul language, who are bad influences on the family, or who we simply struggle to feel love for. Regarding children, there may be teenagers who we can’t seem to communicate with, glued to their phones or answering every question with, “I don’t know”; and there may even be little ones who we consider to be sheer terrors inside the house; go outside and play, we say. =) When we consider Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary, do we greet our family in a similar way? Mary was bearing God within her, but isn’t it true that each person brings something of the presence of God into our lives. After all, they are made in God’s image, and God loves them. Yes, I believe that it is God’s will to go out of our way to especially welcome those who are most challenging for us to love. By welcoming them, we share the truth of their identity as images of God and the truth that God loves all his children. This season, with joy and excitement, let us welcome our guests like Elizabeth welcomed Mary.
Of course, we must also be mindful that in the past we may not have been so easy to welcome ourselves. Perhaps we were a “terror” as a child, or the teenager that thought it uncool to show he cares. Or as adults, perhaps we have been overly critical, impatient, or pushy with others. For our family gatherings, we can also learn from Mary. Mary brought Christ to Elizabeth; she was carrying Christ within her; his peace and his grace. How did she become the bearer of Christ to Elizabeth? She had allowed the Holy Spirit to not only overshadow her, but welcomed him to share her very body with him, allowing him to transform her from handmaid of the Lord to Mother of God. In order to bear Christ to others, we must also allow God to enter us, transform us, and guide us toward serving others in need. In this way we will not only be disciples of Christ, but God bearers… bringers of his peace and joy to others.
These final days of Advent, let us meditate on the interaction between Elizabeth and Mary. If we are welcoming others into our home, Elizabeth is our model, and we welcome them with joy and excitement. We welcome them because they are images of God, and God desires his love to be shown to all his children. If we are guests in the home of others, Mary is our model. We bring Christ with us; his peace and his joy; seeking to be of service to those welcoming us. Family gatherings can be a struggle, but let us remember the living models given to us. May the same Spirit which was alive in the hearts of Mary and Elizabeth, be alive in our own hearts as we await the coming of our Lord.