By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin
“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘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? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’” –Luke 1: 40-45, NRSV
I love the image at the heart of this Advent text. Mary and Elizabeth, both unexpected carriers of this new life gift, greet in joy as they recognize the divine life within each other. Elizabeth proclaims that the child in her womb moves, leaps, in recognition of the child in Mary’s. The sacred life forming within us pulls us toward awareness of the sacred life forming in others.
This text describes our hope for relationship– that we might find ourselves expectant of the divine life present in every person we encounter. My own ministry has been shaped by Margaret Guenther’s simple wisdom, “when in doubt, I always assume that God is at work.” What if I adopted that attitude toward every person I greet? How might my relationships, expectations, and behaviors change if I assumed God’s presence and activity in everyone?
In my culture, we find ourselves in a tense time of suspicion, division, and increasing fear. As I ponder the meaning of Advent into these realities, the story of Mary and Elizabeth offers hope for what can be. Two women offer a sacred yes, bear an impossible promise, and delight in the presence of the sacred in each other.
May it be also with us. May we have the courage to see the sacred coming to life in each one, even in unexpected people and places. May we nurture that life as together we bring to birth a world of justice and love.
The spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Job 33:4, NRSV
We confess what is broken because we yearn to be whole. This is less about a God who needs our confession, and more about humanity that needs to rekindle an awareness of what is truly sacred. God’s breath into the dust of our lives means that we are made of dust divine– ashes to ashes, dust to dust. From where we come we will return. Katie Harmon-McLaughlin, Being Dust: Ash Wednesday
- What hopes for wholeness do you have in your relationships this Lenten season?
- What does it mean to rekindle an awareness of the sacred in your life?
- Prayerfully dwell in the text above from Job 33:4. What is God’s invitation to you in this text?
By David R. Brock
A young woman is talking with her family on the phone about how much she wishes they could be together at Christmas, how sorry she is that they will be apart. Her mother asks if she has received her gifts. She says, ‘not yet.’ Her mother asks her if she has looked outside. She goes to the door and opens it to find mom and dad and brothers and sisters all there warmly bundled against the cold and the snow, arms filled with gifts and her mom holding a cell phone. Together as family. A surprise at Christmas. What else could she hope for?
It’s a little too good to be true, I know, but a commercial like that gets us, doesn’t it? The prospect of being alone, distant from the ones who matter most, during the holidays, then totally unexpected, too good to be true, we open the door and all we have been longing for is there before our eyes—the gifts, the family, the fresh fallen snow. The house is too clean; too Martha Stewart. The girl too beautiful and thin. The family too Ozzie and Harriet. The weather too Christmas perfect, the cell phone too clear, and the music a little too bright, but it tugs at something, this sense of yearning and longing for connection, for community, for love, for Shalom. A little too Currier and Ives or Thomas Kincaid, but it feels good and right and it, as those cunning advertisers know, moves us. It is, I’ll risk saying, a secular expression of our longing for the sacred. The utter joy of the longed for, but unexpected gift. The pony in the barn. The shiny bicycle on the porch. The diamond. The doll that cries and the joy of the parent who sees their child’s eyes open wide and sparkle and shine with wonder. The totally unexpected, too good to be true is suddenly surprisingly reality and the joy and hope of Christmas is captured in the opening of a door.
Spiritual Practice: Imagine a door in your soul opening to reveal the “unexpected, too good to be true”, surprising reality of the sacred in your life, in the world. What would be revealed as you discover your deepest longings this Advent season?