From our youth and even into our adult years, we have all lived at times with eager anticipation of some upcoming event in our life. We imagined how great it would be when “it” – whatever it was – finally happened or arrived. The closer we get to the actual day of the event, the more excited we became. Hardly sleeping on Christmas Eve to finally at last open gifts on Christmas morning. I loved that red shinny bike! You may have been waiting for the birth of a child, or graduation or a special vacation, or retirement. I even have an app on my phone counting down the days until I can retire! I’m in the 1,290’s days left. Poor Fr. Mark has over 14,000 days before he can retire!! But as much as we look forward to something, our day-to-day experiences of anticipation do not offer much insight into the ancient Israelites waiting for the messiah. The magnitude and scale of their longing and expectation is beyond our comprehension. Generation after generation, they yearned for peace and harmony in their own land and with their neighbors. Age upon age, they prayed that God would send the shepherd that we heard Micah describe in our first reading. The prophet, like those before him, assured the people that “he shall be peace.” To recall Israel’s history of faithful expectation helps us better appreciate the potency that Luke seeks to convey in today’s Gospel. In these few, brief lines, we hear that Israel’s longawaited Savior and his herald are not only already in the womb but now are even under the same roof. Through the power of the Holy Spirit what might have been an unremarkable family visit on an ordinary day in a rural village becomes the intersection of two periods of human history. Elizabeth, with John the Baptist in her womb, embodies the former generations. She bears the prophet who will point the way to the promised one. Mary, with Jesus in her womb, embodies a new beginning. She bears the transforming fulfillment of Emmanuel – God with us.
Luke describes the meeting of these two women as being charged with excitement. Anticipation is palpable in every phrase. Mary travels “in haste.” John “leaped” in his mother’s womb. Elizabeth is “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Then she exclaims to Mary, “Blessed are you who believed,” celebrating Mary’s faithfulness to God’s plan for humanity’s salvation which is unfolding right before their very eyes!
As we listen to this Gospel, we are swept up in the euphoria that was so evident in Elizabeth’s home. We can imagine how Luke’s first audiences must have delighted in this story. Jesus was the answer to their ancestors’ prayers. He is the answer to our prayers as well! The day of salvation has arrived!! The waiting is over!!
And so, it is with great joy and anticipation that along with Fr. Mark, our Deacons and staff, that we look forward to celebrating Christmas Mass with all who will come to Our Lady of Mercy! We warmly welcome you! We hope you will encounter Jesus in a new way through our celebration of Christmas and leave with a new appreciation of the gift of the Incarnation. God bless you!!
Blessed and Merry Christmas!