Reflection for Sunday – December 20

Readings: Micah 5:1-4a; Hebrews 10: 5-10; Luke 1: 39-45
We are standing at a threshold waiting for a door to open. There is a sense of anticipation, full of hope for a warm welcome, a loving embrace. Can you just imagine the fulfillment of that promise when the door of God’s mercy opens up for us? What total and unconditional love might flow into your heart?

There is something extraordinary about the intentionality of God’s mercy. It is personal and intimate. It is private and a treasure that is often hidden. God’s mercy is available to everyone, everywhere—as referenced in today’s scripture passages of out of the way and rural towns.

Those who have received God’s mercy have been chosen, not because they were rich and famous, or exceptional in any way. But they had faith. The mercy that we hear about today is the mercy of love that is poured into the world, an imperfect world. A world hungry for a message of peace beyond anything that we have ever known.

We just heard the story of the visitation, the story of Mary and Elizabeth. It is their story and our story. Mary, from the little town of Nazareth, which may have been similar in rank and stature to the towns of Bethlehem-Ephrathah mentioned in the first reading. Lowly and rural towns to be sure, they were not to be counted among the mighty cities or important harbor towns.

Mary, herself lowly and of no account, left “in haste.” This characterization of “haste” marks this as more than some ordinary or casual visit. The fact that she traveled many miles through hill country, through the wilds, through dangerous passages, vulnerable and with child herself raises this up to the level of an uncommon occurrence. So what was so important that she would risk her own life and the life of this Child of God for this arduous journey? It could be that her life was forever changed and she could tell no one—no one but Elizabeth….

Mary had just had a life-changing visit from the angel Gabriel. She knew Elizabeth had a similar visit some 6 months before. Oh, how she wanted to be with an older wiser woman with whom she might be able to trust her own miraculous story. Even Zechariah knew, but he couldn’t tell anyone either for he had been made mute. They share a divine message, a heavenly promise; God is breaking into the world and will soon share our flesh.

As Mary enters Elizabeth’s door, the baby leaps within her womb. The angel’s mysterious message and visitation becomes real. Oh how the presence of God brings them relief and joy! You might well imagine that these two women had much to discuss. Elizabeth in her old age conceiving a child may have turned a few heads.

The scripture says she stayed in her home for five months. Why? She may have been afraid that she would lose the baby, or maybe she couldn’t explain to all her friends how this had happened to her. Mary had a similar predicament. Not married and with no relations with a man, how could she explain her condition to her parents, to Joseph, to her friends? No! They had to be together, they were drawn together by the bond of love and grace. And within the moment of their visitation, God is made real to them and to us. The overwhelming nature of God’s love enveloped them and brought them a kind of peace that they had never known.

This miraculous story is going to get played out in your own lives this holiday season. As you travel from house to house, office to office, visiting friends and relatives, you travel intentionally. You plan your route, the time to travel, the clothes you wear, and the gifts you bear. It takes time, your time. Time away from the comforts of your own home, to be vulnerable and open to receive the mercy of another. Or perhaps it will happen when someone visits you. When you know that someone is intentionally coming for a visit you make preparations to receive them, to make them feel welcomed. God touches all of us in some special way during the year and maybe this is just the time, when we enter the door of someone’s home that we, and they, recognize the light and the love of God within. Yes! The door of God’s mercy is wide. It encompasses the whole world. And yet it comes home this Christmas, into your home, into your heart. Open your doors, let forgiveness and peace be your gift to all who enter.

Sue Howard
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