Thursday, December 16, 2021

Katie Snipes Lancaster

The Nativity
Luke 1:39–45 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

Reflection on the Nativity
I love this passage because when I was pregnant, I felt a special kinship with every other pregnant woman I met in that season. I have to imagine that any of you who were pregnant at the same time as your sister or cousin felt an even deeper connection. Mary and Elizabeth—cousins in one way or another—would have been many years apart (maybe even decades, given Elizabeth’s long season of barrenness and Mary’s very young age) and so the two of them may have never in a thousand years expected to be pregnant at the same time. Even excluding the mystical, prophetic, and incarnational elements of this story, there is something sacred about two cousins at very different stages of life finding themselves in the sisterhood of childbearing.

Those mystical, prophetic, and incarnational elements do end up taking center stage though. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit. The small, unexpected child in Elizabeth’s womb wakes her up to the possibility of incarnation, a prophet even before birth. Remember Elizabeth is not the one visited by angel Gabriel, that was Zechariah. And he has been silent ever since. So it is the child leaping in her womb, not some angel or report of an angel, that prompts Elizabeth’s blessing to Mary. She knows. “Blessed are you,” she says to Mary. “And blessed is the child.” The message comes to Elizabeth wordless through the Holy Spirit and the nudging of her own yet-to-be-born prophetic son.

In other words we do not need angels to know the fullness of this story. Just seeing our loved ones can prod us awake to the presence of the Holy Spirit and the nearness of the incarnation, God-with-us close at hand.

How then do we pray? This holiday season has the capacity to bring us closer to those we love most, and even (God willing) in some circumstances putting us (finally) in the same room with extended family we have so longed to see. The meeting of Mary and Elizabeth reminds me that entering one another’s homes has the capacity to awaken us to the Holy Spirit in ways that surprise us. Looking one another in the eye, our prayer becomes a blessing; may we bless one another in this season, with words of love, trusting that the one we love is beloved and blessed.

Praying the Nativity
God be with us,
close at hand.
Spark within us
the presence of your Holy Spirit
so that we might bless one another
and be blessed.
Amen.