Micah 5: 1-4a; Luke 1: 39-45
After weeks of listening to the end times and then the challenging call of John the Baptist the past two, we now begin the pivot towards Christmas in this beautiful encounter of Mary and Elizabeth. We know relatives of one another, now both pregnant, but also at opposites end of life. Mary, still virgin, young in age, with much to lose, even her life, in saying yes to giving birth to this child. Elizabeth, as we know from scripture, who is called barren, beyond child-bearing age, with nothing to lose at this point. And both are a moment of grace. Of course, most of us somewhere in between, seeking life and yet at times feeling the burden of being barren. Yet, all is a moment of grace.
Yet, there is something else about the two of them and what they model for us in our own lives, in seeking new creation in our hearts as well. See, they both must confront the impossible in their lives. Elizabeth questions. We know Mary questions, “How can this be?” she asks of the angel. Like them, in our own lives in facing what seems to be something impossible, we try to figure it out, reason it, rationalize it, control it in some ways so that it unfolds the way we want it to. But they show us another way, even in spite of their own questioning. They come to a place, as we all need to, where we can accept that this isn’t about me and it’s not about you. Rather, that this life is given to us by God, and when they get to that place, they can finally let it go and it no longer seems impossible but possible with God. Both exemplify this and in this encounter today that we hear of, we all are given the opportunity to step into this intimate moment and be filled with the holy spirit and freed from ourselves so that we too can say yes to new a new life, a new creation.
Micah, in today’s first reading, anticipates a new Israel, in someways personified in the story of Mary as we hear it. Here is a people that have faced great upheaval in their lives, constantly invaded from beyond the borders, and always facing outside threat. But there’s a new warning in anticipation of the new Israel, and that’s the threat from within. In our own sense, we face that as a country, that it is us who bring ourselves down without the need from an outside threat. But spiritually it’s also our greatest threat to a new life and new creation. It’s the war that often ensues within us and the voices that try to outdo the voice of God and our responding yes. We find ourselves over and over again saying yes to the wrong god, furthering ourselves from the new creation that is promised, barren and being called to come to our home, the womb within our hearts and souls. Yes, we know it’s a painful process. Birth always is. New life always is. That voice of God never gives up and is always calling us forth to a fuller life, an incarnate life.
Like Mary and Elizabeth, this new life demands our yes, as hard as that can be for any of us. We get in the way of the life that we have been formed for, the life God has planted within and now comes to fruition in the coming feast. With Mary and Elizabeth as our model in these final days of preparation, we pray, albeit painful, for an awareness of the competing voices in our hearts, that want less of us, desire the minimum to avoid rejection and pain, that tell us we can’t, that remind us just how impossible it all is and consistently keep us at war with ourselves and with God. As we pray for that awareness we anticipate the grace-filled moment, as did Mary and Elizabeth, as we encounter the Lord, when what was and seemed impossible became possible by and through a God, who now invites us into, a season of surprises, a season of new life!