Sermon for December 18, 2022        Advent Four               “The Gift of Elizabeth”

The angels have visited Mary and Joseph separately. They are both excited and a bit or maybe plenty scared. What will families think, community, Synagogue or Rabbi? The story does not give much for detail about these days. We do know that Mary journeyed to see Elizabeth and in her ninth month Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem.

Why Mary chose to visit Elizabeth is the stuff of speculation and in all that we will never know. She did go to visit while in her first trimester. Did she make this 3-day journey alone, were others there as well…again all up for speculation? The story only indicates that Mary went to visit Elizabeth.

Elizabeth the older Aunt, well past her time of bearing children, discovers that she is expecting. Elizabeth and Zacharias are elated and scared. Though older this pregnancy was more conventional in terms of Synagogue standards.

And so the teenage Mary comes to the older Elizabeth for shared comfort, to console, share stories and to visit as two people who were invited into story that was grand and marvelous, beyond their control and within their control.

Two women who were not supposed to be pregnant find delight and comfort in each other’s company. They share a common story of God’s compassion and an uncommon path to motherhood.

Elizabeth’s gift is one of welcome and hospitality. She opened her arms and heart to Mary who would soon be if not already the shame of Nazareth for being pregnant before marriage. She was able to calm Mary and show her the strength that was already present in her. A gift of non-judgmental acceptance and a gift of joy filled excitement.

For us in our day it is a powerful gift and one that might be dusted off and used with extravagance. It shines a light on the ways we use our judgement of others as an excuse to withhold hospitality. It shines a light on our desire to act as consultant to God as we repress joy when God does not behave as we like. It shines a light on our capacity to forgive or not forgive. It shines a light into the places and people we would prefer stay in the shadows or our periphery so we can live life our way.

This is a Sunday of the discovery of love and in that love an opening to hospitality and joy. Jesus shows the way with wine and bread and in this feast of love shines a light on our heart. At this table no is excluded, in fact all are heartily invited to share. Young and older, seeker and life-long believer, saint and sinner for in Jesus all are redeemed, named and chosen for God’s good work.