It’s Christmas. Again.
We, who have been around the block more times than we care to admit, can be forgiven for lacking the giddy excitement of our grandchildren. Christians among us know the routines. And Jesus’ birth narratives? Haven’t we heard it all?
Remember Mary’s delightful visit to Elizabeth in Luke 1:39-45? Elizabeth is old and frail, and a shadow of the young, vibrant Mary. She is too old to become pregnant; Mary too young for motherhood. Yet here they are: Mary is carrying Jesus, and Elizabeth’s womb is swelling with John who eventually prepares the way for Jesus.
The elderly (1:7, 18, 36) Elizabeth had prayed for years to become a mother, all to no avail, and suffered disgrace as a result (1:25). She may have felt God’s grace had passed her by. Not that she was an outcast; being married to a priest and a descendant of Aaron afforded her social respectability. Still, there was an emptiness deep inside.
Mary, like most young Jewish women of her day, hoped she would one day become a mother, though she expected that it would happen in an acceptable and respectable way, not as a young virgin.
Both women had reasonable expectations for motherhood. The problem was that God interrupted their expectations with a timing all His own. For Elizabeth, God’s timing came too late; for Mary, it came too soon.
Both Mary and Elizabeth demonstrate that hope has a sacred trajectory. God has a habit of interrupting our lives in His own time. Let’s face it, has our own faith journey been what we expected or hoped for? Has God not interrupted us with His own plans and His own timing?
As soon as Mary realizes she is pregnant, she does not go to her fiancé Joseph or her parents. Luke says that Mary “hurried” (1:39) to see Elizabeth whose life was divinely interrupted just like hers. And when Mary arrives, Elizabeth’s child leaps in her womb – not once, but twice (1:41, 44). As they celebrate the arrival of Jesus the Messiah, these two expectant women form the earliest Christian community. Isn’t that how all Christian communities begin – people celebrating together their own stories of God’s sacred interruptions?
This Christmas will – again – be unlike others in our past when life was “normal.” We grieve the disruption of not being able to celebrate Christ’s coming with family and friends. Yet let us prepare for Christmas by allowing the Holy Spirit to interrupt us, so that we leap for joy deep within and embrace a salvation greater than we can ever imagine.
Rev. Wout Brouwer, retired minister, Langley
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