Walking into the sanctuary one Sunday morning, I was stopped in my tracks when I saw the face of an old friend. We had not seen each other in ten years. He is a Lutheran pastor in Louisiana. I serve a United Methodist congregation in Atlanta, Georgia. We met in graduate school almost twenty years before this Sunday reunion. Though we stayed in contact with each other through the years, we were seldom together in person.
In that moment of recognition, I was flooded with a series of emotions. When another pastor takes time off to come worship with me, I consider it an honor. When an old friend goes out of his or her way to pay a surprise visit, I am reminded of the intimate bonds that have united us across the years. But mostly I am just surprised.
Elizabeth greets Mary with a similarly surprised response. Elizabeth is six months pregnant at this point. She may have had many visitors during that time; but when Mary greets her, something different happens. The baby within Elizabeth leaps for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice.
Elizabeth is surprised. She is delighted. After Mary’s greeting, she responds, “Why do I have this honor, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (1:43, ceb). Mary’s surprise visit stops Elizabeth in her tracks as she realizes that God has come to visit her through the presence of her pregnant cousin Mary.
Advent invites us to be ready for God’s appearance at unexpected times, in unexpected places—even through unexpected voices and faces.
Lord, surprise me with your presence today. Amen.
As Christians we understand that our faith is rooted in the ongoing story of God’s faithfulness to God’s people. Micah celebrates this story, prophesying that the true king of Israel will one day come from the small village of Bethlehem, Jesus’ birthplace. Luke features women prominently throughout his Gospel. The two readings from Luke this week highlight the prophetic insights of Elizabeth and Mary. Mary visits Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John, God’s messenger. After Elizabeth identifies Mary as the mother of the Lord, Mary breaks into song, understanding that her story is tied to the fulfillment of God’s promises going back to Abraham. Little does she know that her son will one day offer his body as a sacrifice for all, as Hebrews tells us.
• Read Micah 5:2-5a. What “small” beginnings have yielded great results in your life?
• Read Psalm 80:1-7. How does this psalm of lament speak to you? When has God restored you and shone the light of divine love on you?
• Read Hebrews 10:5-10. What do you believe God desires from you? In what ways does Jesus’ life of obedience help you understand God’s intention for you and the world?
• Read Luke 1:39-55. When have you been stopped in your tracks by meeting unexpectedly an old acquaintance? How did God speak to you in that encounter?
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