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Luke 1:26-38, 46b-55
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Every parent who has been present at their child’s birth will tell a variation on the same experience: the most amazing thing ever! Words cannot contain the range of emotion. I well remember the birth of my firstborn who is now thirty-six years old. When a nurse handed Luke to me immediately after delivery, I said aloud, “Well, all right! Here you are! So be it! Whatever happens, you are mine and I am yours; you will be a gift for certain!” And we have had many adventures ever since that continue to unfold in ways that could never have been known or predicted, yet inevitably led to a wondrous gratitude.
Given my gender, I can only marvel at the experience of a child leaping in the womb; but the awesomeness of life begetting life is among the most spectacular facets of human self-awareness. Advent is all about this elemental aspect of existence—a celebration of life, the begetting of life, the promise of life, and the gift of life abundant for all!
Elizabeth and Mary, the mothers of John and Jesus, experience this wonderment, this promise of life ahead. They cannot know the paths their sons will travel, that their lives as well as their deaths will forever point to a future imbued with hope.
Death leading to hope points to the paradoxical nature of the season. We know the trajectory of the lives these men will lead, yet here’s the thing: Though headed for brutal deaths they remain beacons of hope for life abundant. That is the mystery that holds the key to the door of faith—faith in our God of life that inevitably leads to a wondrous gratitude.
Holy One, surely you are the God of life, the one who makes things that are out of things that are not. What an awesome, grace-filled awareness we have been given! All praise to you! Amen.
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Scripture Reading from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.