This weekend, I was walking around an outdoor shopping plaza basking in the glow of the Christmas lights, the bright décor and yes snow. Imagine my shock when I walked out of the movie theatre and there were snow flurries in the air. I had spent the majority of my life in Minnesota and moved to Florida a number of years ago to avoid the snow, ice and freezing temperatures. However, seeing the snowflakes dancing in the air, mixing with the festive glow of the lights, which reflected softly on the shoppers, was a fun and nostalgic time. Just like the Christmas song that played overhead exclaiming, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” for Christians, this season is the most wonderful time of the year as we prepare for the birth of the Christ child.
When the tests confirm a couple is expecting, one of the decisions they have to make is whom they’re going to tell first about their wonderful news. Which parent will be told first or should there be a joint meeting with all of the parents so that no one feels left out. Social media has added a fun new dimension in announcing the birth. There are videos of couples displaying the arrival date while holding pink or blue balloons or even booties to announce the sex of their baby. I have also seen contest like, “name the baby” or “guess the gender” for some added excitement during the wait. It is an anxious but happy time for the expectant parents, family and friends as they anticipate the new birth.
During Advent, we read the biblical texts to help us prepare for the birth of the baby Jesus. The familiar story begins with Mary who was visited by an angel, with the news that she would give birth to God’s Son, Jesus. Can you imagine what might have gone through her mind after being told THAT news? She was an engaged but unwed young woman who had yet to experience sex but that didn’t change the fact that she would give birth to a baby boy. The story does not give us many more details about what happened when the angel left however it does provide us with who she chose to tell first about the upcoming birth of God’s Son. She chose her cousin Elizabeth. According to the text, this much older woman was also expecting an impossible miracle. Much like Mary, Elizabeth’s husband, Zachariah, had been visited by an angel and was told they would soon be proud parents of a baby boy and his name would be John. His birth would be a miracle because this couple was beyond childbearing years. The angel also gave them a message that their baby would prepare the hearts and minds for the Lord who was to come. When Mary ventured to travel to see Elizabeth, the older woman was already six months pregnant. Who would understand what Mary was experiencing better than Elizabeth, who had her own unexpected miracle that would be born in a short three months. .
When Mary arrived at the home of Zachariah and Elizabeth, something unique happened. The baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaped at the sound of Mary’s greeting. The story indicates that Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit as she joyously exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?” If Mary had any doubts about what the angel had told her regarding her future as the mom of God, Elizabeth confirmed it with her blessing to the young woman. Why was Elizabeth the first person Mary chose to tell? Of course, as I said earlier, she would understand the unexpected visit by the angel, but I think it is more than that. Mary was a young unwed woman, in ancient times, who was carrying a child outside of the marriage bed. I believe her pregnancy would not bode well for her in the public eye let alone with her fiancé, Joseph. God too informed him in a dream, that Mary would be the mother of Jesus, and that he should continue with their marriage as planned. With all of Mary’s questions and concerns about what was happening to her, cousin Elizabeth may have been her safe place to go and be loved and accepted without question. She knew that Mary was unwed yet she did not judge her. Through the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth recognized that the baby Mary carried was going to be her Lord to which she offered praise and blessing to the future mother. I try to put myself there, on the doorstep, to watch the greeting unfold between these two ordinary women, who not only would be moms to two very important men but also would be the moms to all of Christianity. The man John, whose name means “God is gracious” or “has shown favor”, would prepare the hearts and minds of the people for the coming Christ. The man Jesus, whose name means “God saves,” would change the world with his Divine love, grace and be the Savior for whosoever believed in him. You can’t get much more important than that!
This season is a time to celebrate the coming of the Christ child, but also it gives us time to identify who the Elizabeth is in our lives. Who is the person that accepts and loves you for who you are and offers you a blessing to carry with you each day? Take some time to give thanks for their influence in your life. Then identify how you can be an Elizabeth in someone's life and share with them this blessing to help them to know that they are favored and loved by God- “Blessed are you, for God delights in you. I give thanks that God is blessing the world through you.”