Advent 2023: Make Space to Gather


In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 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.”

And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,

     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowly state of his servant.
    Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed,

 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name;

 indeed, his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.

 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones
    and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things
    and sent the rich away empty.
 He has come to the aid of his child Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

 And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

The relationship Mary and Elizabeth share is sacred, and I am so glad their relationship is recorded in scripture. Elizabeth is pregnant with John, the one who would prepare the way for Mary’s baby, Jesus. Both are pregnant at odd times in their lives – Mary, quite young and Elizabeth, quite old – and both are pregnant due to divine intervention. It makes sense that Mary would seek out her cousin Elizabeth. Who better to spend time with than the only other pregnant woman she knows who is also fulfilling a divine calling? We only have their greeting recorded for us in scripture, but can you imagine the conversation around the fire in the evening? Did they wonder about who their children would really become? Did they worry about their ability to be mothers? Did they discuss God’s plan for the world and their part in it? Did they laugh when their babies moved within them? Did they curse in discomfort when they couldn’t sleep?

Regardless of what their conversations might have been there was something within Mary that knew she needed Elizabeth, and from Elizabeth’s remarks in the verses above, Elizabeth was grateful Mary had arrived. It is important to spend time with people who help you remember who you are. Mary and Elizabeth are two women brought together by unique life circumstances. They are more than cousins pregnant at the same time. They are companions bound to each other through motherhood and connected forever by the lives their sons will lead. Do you have a friend who understands you without having to say a word? Who in your life knows what you need before you need it? Do your friendships build you up, support you, and remind you of who you are? The relationship that blossoms between the verses of Mary and Elizabeth’s story is an important reminder that we need deep and true friendships in our lives. It is important, especially in the season of Advent, to make space to be with the people who love us.

God of Elizabeth and Mary,
Make our hearts leap with joy,
and fill our mouths with songs of praise,
so we too can announce glad tidings of peace,
and welcome Christ in our midst. Amen.

Advent Practices

Invite a friend over for dinner or go out for coffee. Spend more time listening than you do talking.

Write a letter to someone you love. Tell them what they mean to you. Don’t leave anything out.

Take time to invest in new friendships and relationships. A kind word goes a long way this time of year.

Rev. Louisa Ward, Dean for Spiritual Life and Campus Minister