19 December 2021 at Saint Peter and Saint William Churches in Naples, FL
Micah 5, 1-4 + Psalm 80 + Hebrews 10, 5-10 + Luke 3, 10-18
Two women, one from Jerusalem and the other from Nazareth. One is there at the center of power, and her husband is of the Priestly tribe. The other has no husband and she lives in a place no one would ever have heard of until a visitor comes. They are for Luke, the meeting of the Old Testament and the New Testament. The old had a history of infidelity and idolatry, but it held the promise. The new is the promise and it begins with fidelity to the Word of God delivered by an angel who only appears once in the Old Testament in the Book of Daniel proclaiming the final time, the age of justice.
The only man in the story is silent. All he can do is watch because of his doubt in the power of the Lord. And silent he should be. There is nothing to say in the presence of God’s power from those who question the God’s intention to start creation over again, and that is exactly what is happening with the Annunciation. The Holy Spirit creates something out of nothing. A virgin conceives, and her son is both human, born of a woman and Divine, the Son of God. Now the Old Testament is complete. What was promised has been given.
It all comes to pass through these two unlikely people living at the margins of society. An aging barren woman long dismissed by society, and a young girl not yet married and therefore having no identity at all. Powerless, insignificant to those who hold power and
have authority, they speak to us today an important reminder about how God works and how the Divine plan for the new creation will be made known. Elizabeth, like Sarah of old does the work of hospitality. She welcomes Mary and her unborn child, and in all humility as the elder, she declares that the child in her womb was secondary to the one Mary bore. Elizabeth become the first to proclaim faith in Jesus, calling him “my Lord” before he was born. Don’t miss the way Luke uses the faith of women to make the major professions of faith. “Blessed are you!” she proclaims celebrating the grace that they both shared: “Blessed are you who believed.”
We pick up this Gospel today, just days before we celebrate the Incarnation once again to be reminded that God has consistently chosen the weak and the marginalized over people of influence. The Word of God speaks to us today again about how God works not to instruct, but to motivate and awaken us. We are not really people of power or great influence. They are off in citadels of power like Washington, Rome, Moscow, and all those capital places of wealth, influence, and power. We are the little ones of history whose names will hardly be remembered when they vanish from tomb stones. Those people of influence will have their monuments for a few generations, but not much of what they do lasts very long.
It takes people like Elizabeth and Mary to make a difference. It takes people like you and me to allow God’s plan to be fulfilled. Those apostles Jesus gathers are a perfect example. Not one of them was really influential or particularly gifted except for the gift of faith and willingness to follow Jesus Christ.
The Gospel today warns us to be careful about feeling privileged allowing us to look down on others who are different, powerless, poor and helpless. We might very well end up standing in silence as God works through them to accomplish what we do not. In some ways, the story we proclaim here today is our story. It is the story that God works through people like us right here in a small town on the Gulf Coast or anywhere people are willing to listen the news brought once and for all by an angel. Like those women of faith, we ought to risk believing that God’s promise is being fulfilled within us and by us. When we do, the privileged will simply have to be silent enough to perceive that God is working in spite of them. When we realize that God has chosen us, there will be peace not brought by diplomats and their treaties or ceasefires, but by forgiveness and a love that is rooted in respect. It is then that we shall truly be Blessed for we have believed that what was spoken to us by the Lord will be fulfilled.