Your presence is more important than your presents – Wednesday,4th Week in Advent – Luke 1:39-45

On the face of things this seems like a meeting of two women, yet there were four persons that day in that little town of Ein Karim, high up in the mountains. The forerunner, John the Baptist and the Messiah are physically present, each in the womb of his mother. Here, a young Galilean carries within her womb the one ‘who is and who was and who is to come’. At this remarkable point in time and space the new covenant of God with his people is beginning.

The journey from Nazareth to Ein Karim was long and uncomfortable. Mary, carries the secret; she is the womb of God but that secret is let out of the bag or should I say out of the womb when John the Baptist leapt on hearing the voice of the Mary. This isn’t just a cute “I felt the baby kick” moment. It’s God’s Spirit at work. Zechariah had been told something about her child, “ he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” – Luke 1:15. This visitation could best be described as a Eucharistic moment. The light of Christ comes to Elizabeth through Mary.

But this text rightly focuses on Elizabeth too. The scriptures record very little about Elizabeth, but she was a remarkable woman. She believed Gabriel when her husband did not. Mary was a young woman and she was an old woman, but Mary needed the encouragement that Elizabeth gave her. She assured her that all those things that had been told to her, by the angel, would happen.

What a wonderful encounter: two women, bound by kinship, both bearing sons, both blest by the Lord. How affirming to Mary that the revelation made to her, is understood by her kinswoman. Like Mary, when we share our faith story with someone we proclaim the greatness of God in our life. Think how blest we are each time we have the opportunity to ‘magnify the Lord’ through our faith narrative. We all have someone with whom we can share what God is doing in my life.

So what is our take away from this Gospel? Let me share three of them with you.

The first; John leapt for joy in the presence of his Lord. Earlier David ‘danced before the Lord with all his might’. The Psalmist tells us to ‘shout for joy’. Saint Paul urges us to ‘sing and make melody to the Lord with all our heart’. It is the child in us that can truly be open to God’s constant invitation to be born again, to be part of the creation which is itself constantly being recreated. Do I celebrate this life God has given me?

The second; the child leapt for joy.’ In Luke’s Gospel, joy emerges wherever Jesus is. Angels and shepherds rejoice at his birth. His disciples cannot fast and mourn while he is around. Zacchaeus rejoices when Jesus comes to his house. The disciples at Emmaus were overcome when they recognised Jesus as their companion, and the Gospel ends with the disciples returning to Jerusalem with great joy. I ask that I may also be full of joy because Jesus is near.

Finally, this Gospel also helps us to focus on what the upcoming season of Christmas is all about; the giving of one self. God so loved us that he gave his only son to save us from our sin. Mary gives of herself and her time. She herself, who is with child, chooses to make a long and arduous journey to Ein Karim to be of service to her cousin who is herself expecting a child. The gifts we give this Christmas is not so much an ‘exchange’ in anticipation of receiving but a giving that comes from a heart that has received much. Give of yourself this Christmas. Your presence is more important than your presents.

For another reflection based on this text please click on this link

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