Note: This post originally appeared as a part of Colonial Church’s 2018 Advent Devotional Series. I finalized the edits for it on the night that my baby quit having a heartbeat…I got home around 10pm to discover that I, at 9.5 weeks pregnant, was bleeding and we ended up losing the baby. The profound nature of this paradoxical juxtaposition of a post entitled “Bearing New Things” while I was in the midst of miscarrying, is not lost on me.
Opening Prayer. Oh God who gives us life, may we be a people who turn towards each other and invite forth the new things that you are birthing in our lives by your Spirit. Amen.
Scripture. Luke 1: 39-45 (see all of Luke 1 for the full story)
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
Bearing New Things- From Rev. Sara Wilhelm Garbers
I love this story.
Part of the reason I love it is because we live in a world where friendship between women—friendship that is profoundly for the other in the midst of her victories and her living into the fullness of her calling before God—is often seen as being rare. And in many ways throughout history, this has been the case whenever and wherever women (or any of us, for that matter) believe that there isn’t enough love or favor to go around. This perceived scarcity then causes us to build walls between one another.
Yet I’ve been around long enough to know that it’s a lie which tells us that women can’t be profoundly for each other. For in truth, women have long been the source of safety and communities of care for one another…as Mary and Elizabeth themselves experienced! Like them, this has been the case in my life, for women have been some of my most important spiritual midwifes, mentors, and friends.
It has been through running with my girlfriends that I’ve often heard God’s voice; their love has healed and challenged me. Through them I have come to hear my own voice and God’s invitations in and to my life.
And I suppose that is part of why I love this story: it reminds us that people who were supposed to be in opposition can be for each other and refuse the lies that society tells them.
I also love this story because of what it teaches about God’s way of working in the world.
This is the story of God’s care for two women, of their being honored and favored by God in a society that recognized them only in terms of their identities as bearers of life.
It is the story of barriers being broken between women: a woman who was infertile and old and a young woman who was pregnant and scandalously unmarried.
It is the story of friendship and community.
It is the story of women loving each other and finding consolation and surety of God’s promises by being with and for one another.
It is the story about women’s bodies bearing new things, birthing life for the entire world.
Yes, THIS is the story of how God comes into the world.
So I imagine being Elizabeth and what it would mean to have spent a lifetime living with infertility (Which would have made her marginalized in society. You can read Rev. Daniel’s sermon from Sunday for more on this), to her finding honor in her society as she is lifted up. And not only does she know the promise of her own child, but she becomes the first to bear witness and testify to the truth that the Angel had spoken to Mary:
“You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
Elizabeth is the first to know and proclaim the true identity of Mary’s baby as her own baby leaps within her. And upon Elizabeth’s proclamation, Mary knows that she will not be alone, she will not be cast outside of the community…for she is believed.
Through these women a revolution is given life…a new kindom of human relationship with God and one another has arrived. Through them, God is bearing new things and giving life. Through them we have a new baptism and the realized promise of Emmanuel–God with us.
And Elizabeth and Mary…well, they stay together for three months, caring for each other and knowing the beauty and power of what happens when women believe God and one another and are committed to the labor of love that is our invitation to bring God with us into the world ..the God who is bearing new things in and through us as we indeed labor with and for one another towards the rebirth and redemption of our world.
Questions for Consideration.
- Have you ever considered the power of the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth before? Take some time to reflect upon the story and what each may have been feeling in the midst of their pregnancies.
- Where is there a relational divide God might be inviting you to cross?
- How might you cultivate the ability to be with and for others?
- Where might God be inviting you to bear new things? What is the labor God might be calling you to this Advent?
Closing Prayer. God, make us a people who with out lives, believe one another and extend your welcome and friendship to and with one another. Birth in us the newness of life. Breathe on us, oh Emmanuel- God with and for us. Amen.