Luke 1:39-45 || Rev. Greg Klimovitz || Fourth Week of Advent 2015
There’s an old hymn that we sing this time of year:
Love came down at Christmas
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.
What bliss. Then you turn on the news, scroll through your Facebook and Twitter feeds, and maybe even listen to the radio on your morning commute.
Which is precisely what I was doing when I first learned of what took place at a North Philadelphia mosque. It’s also what I was doing when I learned about the events in San Bernardino, CA. It’s what I was doing when I learned about the terror in Paris. It’s what I was doing when I learned about proposed policies of blockade, laced in prejudice, related to refugees and immigration. It’s what I was doing when I learned of university presidents calling student bodies to carry concealed.
Ever since Advent began, love is not what has been primarily reported as coming down this Christmas. In these days, everything is not all lovely or divine.
When the pregnant Mary ventured to the Galilean countryside to visit her cousin Elizabeth, love was not coming down all around them either.
“In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth” (Luke 1:29).
In those days. Yes, it was in those days of Mary’s pregnancy and when Zechariah and Elizabeth saw an end to their barrenness. But it was also in those days of Herod, Augustus, and Quirinius, when fear and trepidation lurked around every corner for marginalized persons. It was in those days when, like today, racial, ethnic, and religious tensions were raw and real. In those days power was abused and fear-based politics were wielded in the name of civic stability and security. In those days, love was not the most common descriptor for what was going on all around God’s people, causing even the most pious to question God’s promises. Nevertheless, in the midst of the chaos of those days, love was gestating within both Mary and Elizabeth. In those days, joy found a way to leap within the womb:
“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.’” (Luke 1:41-44)
So I wonder, whenever Mary and Elizabeth were tempted to despair, did they simply look down, gently place their hands upon their bellies, and breathe a sigh of assurance? Whenever they learned of yet another reason to question God’s presence and concern, did Zechariah and Joseph ask if they could feel again the tiny kicks of God’s coming peace?
In those moments, each found relief in the midst of their many reasons to lament. They could whisper to one another, “love is coming down.” And this love was coming down in and through those who nurtured the Advent of Immanuel- God with us. This is the good news of Advent woven within the mess of our tired world- love has come, is coming, and will come down again. As Elizabeth proclaims to Mary, “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoke to her by the Lord” (Luke 1:45).
Until then, if we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear, we will notice tiny kicks of God’s love come down through the faithful who live into the fulfillment of God’s dreams for a more gracious world. Love comes down as we welcome neighbors into our homes and explore possibilities to host others from distant lands looking for refuge and safety. Love comes down when we advocate for victims of violence and the legislation that can make such violence more difficult to repeat. Love comes down as the interfaith community links arms with their sisters and brothers at local vigils. Love comes down through hospital visitations and solidarity extended over a cup of coffee with a friend. Love comes down as we journey alongside the family who has been struggling with infertility, for whom the Christ child is just another reminder of the void they have yet to fill. Love comes down when we give anonymously to families looking for assistance so they can provide for their little ones at Christmas. Love comes down as we engage in new relationships and confront the realities of racism, bias, and privilege. Love comes down through God’s people. Love comes down through the church. Love comes down through all of us as we wait for the day to come when Christ will return and make all things new and right.
In these days, as we light our Advent candles of love, may we cling to the large and small kicks of grace that remind us God is with us and for us. Even more, may we live into the fulfillment of God’s promises, announced by stars and angels who gave the sign- love came down at Christmas.