Reflection on the Fourth Sunday of Advent
There seems to be a focus on doing God’s will in these readings. Jesus came to do God’s will from his birth until his death and resurrection. Mary agreed to do God’s will as spoken to her by the angel, even though it was a bit of a confounding message for her, I’m sure. And in the Gospel we have Elizabeth, who is filled with the Spirit, rejoicing in the fact that Mary is following God’s plan for her. What a wise and faithful woman Elizabeth must have been.
The last words of the Gospel, spoken by Elizabeth to Mary, are “blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” How comforting it might have been for Mary to hear Elizabeth tell her that she is blessed because she believes in the message God has spoken to her. Being supported for her faith and belief in something very unexplainable could have been very helpful at that point in Mary’s journey. And knowing that God had shared this plan with Elizabeth may have provided an added sense of conviction to Mary’s own thoughts.
The last words of the Gospel, spoken by Elizabeth to Mary, “blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled,” are also for each of us. Blessed are those throughout these last 2,000 years and all those today who believe in what has been spoken to us by God — through scripture and prayer, through nature, through silence, music, books and art, and through other people — will be fulfilled. That is why we wait in hope and what we are waiting for — the fulfillment of all that has been promised by God.
And all that has been promised to us is amazing and more than most of us can imagine, even on our good days. Our call is to continue to believe in the fulfillment of those amazing promises every moment of every day, no matter what is happening in our lives, our country and our world. We are preparing ourselves for the gifts that will surely come at Christmas and beyond — the gifts of peace, love, equality, care for all people and the planet, increasing faith in God and greater trust in one another. What we are waiting for may seem as unlikely or unimaginable as Mary’s pregnancy and impending birth, but it will surely come as promised.
I think the Gospel also is reminding us to support others in a role much like that of Elizabeth with Mary. We, too, can encourage and support others as they discern God’s will for them and take steps to follow that call. The call may seem out of the ordinary and unexpected, or someone may not feel certain about how to interpret what they think they have heard. We can support others in believing in the promises of God, even if they seem delayed and unlikely.
The support of a friend or family member may be exactly what is needed and wished for — the perfect gift, at Christmas or anytime. And it may be that support that empowers others and actually helps bring to fulfillment the promises God has made. We each have a role in bringing forth the reign of God in the present moment. We know that God works through us to bring the promises to fulfillment. We know that we are gifted with grace, blessed by God and called to use the grace and gifts we have been given to help others believe in the promises of God. When that belief fills the earth all things are possible.