Reflections for December are by Bishop Burchell McPherson, Bishop of Montego Bay, Jamaica
Micah 5:1-4; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45
On this last Sunday of Advent, the gospel tells the story of Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth must have felt the need to speak with someone because her husband Zechariah could not speak, and it was a big comfort to see her cousin Mary who came to help her out. Mary stayed three months until John was born. Mary brought a comforting presence to her cousin Elizabeth. She brought companionship and friendship.
What is the consequence of Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth before the birth of Jesus? When Elizabeth greeted Mary and recognized the Messiah in Mary’s womb she was filled with the Holy Spirit and with a joyful anticipation of the fulfilment of God’s promise to send a Savior. First, the Spirit made Elizabeth recognize the presence of the mother of the Saviour. What a remarkable gift for God to not only fill Elizabeth’s heart with his Holy Spirit but also the child in her womb as well. John the Baptist, even before the birth of the Messiah, pointed to his coming and leapt for joy in the womb of his mother as the Holy Spirit revealed to him the presence of the King to be born.
Second, the Spirit led Elizabeth to call Mary “blessed”. She recognized that Mary was actually bearing the Christ child: And because of the “fruit” of her womb, the Spirit made Elizabeth say of Mary, “Of all women, you are the most blessed and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Amidst all these blessings, Mary humbly glorified the Lord of the Promise and Fulfillment: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour” (Lk. 1:46-47).
The Holy Spirit is God’s gift to us to enable us to know and experience the indwelling presence of God and the power of His kingdom. The Holy Spirit is the way in which God reigns within each of us. Do we all live in the joy and knowledge of God’s indwelling presence with us through His Holy Spirit?
To be chosen by God is an awesome privilege and responsibility. Mary received both a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow. Her joy was not reduced by her sorrow because it was fueled by her faith, hope, and trust in Gad and his promises. Jesus promised his disciples that “no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22). The Lord gives us a supernatural joy which permits us to bear any sorrow or pain and which neither life nor death can take away. When we submit to God we know the joy of a life given over to God in faith and trust.
In the fulfillment of God’s promise in Elizabeth and Mary, we learn one very important lesson: Salvation does not come from human efforts and merits; it comes exclusively from God’s grace. “Lord, fill me with your Holy Spirit and give me joy in seeking you more closely. Increase my faith in all your promises, my hope in the joys of heaven, and my love for you as my all.”
We celebrate the coming of Christ when we believe, like Mary, in God’s word. We believe in God’s Word when we respond freely and generously to God’s plan for us, and we experience deeper and lasting joy in living closer to God. We believe in God’s Word when we can unhesitatingly commit to Him: “I come to do your will, O God.” (Hebrews 10:7) We believe in God’s word when we generously share with others the blessings and joys we receive.
Let us pray: O Lord, let us, like Elizabeth and Mary, place ourselves in our own special ways in the service of God. Amen.
+ Burchell McPherson D.D., December 11, 2015