My dear Sisters and Brothers,
I have been thinking a lot recently about the blessing of family. Part of that is because our sermon series during Advent has been on the diversity of God’s family. Part of that is because the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is always a time filled with family activities and traditions. We have intentionally canceled all meetings for the remainder of December to give us all time to be with family and friends.
Part of the reason my thoughts are filled with family these days is that there is a lot going on in my family right now. One of my sons got married on December 7 and like all weddings it was a time filled with family and stories and memories. My daughter is expecting her first child in January.
Families are complicated and they can be messy. They can be the source of our greatest joy, and they can also be the source of our deepest pain. Often, they are both.
This Sunday, the third Sunday in Advent, we will hear and consider the powerful story of Mary and Elizabeth (Luke 1:26 – 45). Elizabeth was older than Mary, but she, too, was pregnant with her first child.
We are not told why Mary went to Elizabeth. But I think there was probably a mutual need there. Mary was young, facing the drama of being an unwed mother in a society in which that would have been very scandalous. Perhaps she wanted to get out of town and escape for awhile. Perhaps she went knowing, at least in part, that Elizabeth could probably use her help. She probably went knowing that she could definitely use the wisdom and guidance that Elizabeth would have to offer her. They would now be family in a radically new and powerful way. A way that brought mutual benefit to each of them. They each came away from that time together enriched and stronger and more committed to the role that they were to play in God’s unfolding drama.
As we gather this Sunday, we will light the candles of hope, peace, and joy. We will give thanks for the joy of this season and be reminded that even in the darkest and most challenging moments of our lives, God is there bringing light and love, hope and even joy.
No matter where you find yourself this year, filled with joy and wonder for all the good things that are happening in your life, grieving the loss of someone you love, or struggling with a strained relationship, I hope you will come to worship and let the love of God and this family of faith be like Elizabeth for you ~ a safe place where you will be unconditionally loved and accepted and where you will hopefully hear a word of wisdom and encouragement that will strengthen uphold you on your journey through these days.
Hope to see you on Sunday!