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Holy Visitations

by The Rev Beth Knowlton on December 15, 2021

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’” - Luke 1:39-55
 
“Love is something if you give it away, give it away, give it away, oh love is something if you give it away, you end up having more. It’s just like a magic penny, hold it tight and you won’t have any. Lend it spend it and you’ll have so many, they’ll roll all over the floor. Love is something if you give it away you’ll end up having more.”
 
Many of us probably learned this song as children. While it certainly is not an Advent song by design, it has an important Advent reminder for us. Amidst the siren call of consumerism, we are reminded that the gift of love should not be transactional, at least in the way we typically imagine. Love is not something that operates in our typical currency of exchange. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit. It cannot be quantified, controlled, or even predicted.
 
These past few weeks have had a more typical December pace than we have had in two years. Gatherings, outreach activities, holiday concerts, cooking preparations, and worship have been full of joy. I love all the hustle and bustle and yet feel the pull to continue to hold a quieter space for Advent. Some days I have done a good job of it. Other days I’ve found myself straining under a heaped-up load of expectations. Have I finished purchasing my gifts? Has everything been sent that needs to be in the mail? What am I forgetting? It can all boil down to a lengthy list of things I need to accomplish to have an acceptable holiday season.
 
The main danger of the list, of course, is that it becomes something to be conquered and controlled. It is not nurtured in darkness but finds its energy in the buzz of fluorescent light. It is not a prayerful litany of preparation or song of praise. The pregnant mother has yielded to a commando fleet with territory to conquer and a mission to accomplish.
 
The list is wonderful when it is going well. I can heave a sigh of relief as I make my way down it, but heaven forbid something new pop onto it. Given the current state of my house, the worst thing I can imagine right now would be an unexpected guest, relative or not. So the image of the visitation between Mary and Elizabeth is almost a shock this year. I mean, didn’t Elizabeth have an awful lot going on, getting ready for the baby and everything? Could we have blamed her if she had been less than excited about the voice of Mary wafting into her home?
 
But somehow Elizabeth has seen this time of pregnancy as an opportunity to open herself to mystery. Luke tells us she has spent the past five months keeping herself apart from her normal round of activity. And that is what allows her to respond with joy at Mary’s appearing. 
 
So relish and be joyful about all that is giving you a sense of new life as you resume things that have not been available. But if the list starts to be in control, maybe take a deep breath. And go back into the enclosed space of Advent and allow yourself to drink deeply from those waters as well.

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