Several years ago I drove to Syracuse to pick up my daughter from college. It was Christmas break. It’s a 5 hour drive to Syracuse, and I was stressed out the whole way. I’d left later than I planned, hit traffic, and a snowstorm was brewing. I just wanted to get to my destination.
The next year, at Christmas break again, I undertook took the same journey. You know, some parts of that drive are actually pretty scenic. Outside of Albany it’s all farms and rolling hills. A dusting of snow brings out its beauty. You drive along the Erie Canal for part of the way.
Same journey, same destination. Two very different experiences.
Advent can be like that. Same destination- Christmas- but our experience can be quite different from year to year.
In today’s Gospel we read about Mary going on a journey- a journey to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was with child in her old age. It was a long trip, about 90 miles, most likely on foot. The scriptures don’t say if Mary she enjoyed the scenery along the way- but we can be sure that she had a lot on her mind.
And apparently so did Elizabeth. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and with a joyful anticipation of the fulfillment of God’s promise. Most likely alerted by townspeople as soon as Mary came into sight, she greets Mary with joy: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Blessed is she who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
“Blessed is she who believed”. A fitting meditation for us in these last days of Advent. Mary believed that what the angel told her was true, that she will bear a son named Jesus who will be called Son of the Most High. She didn’t understand all that it meant, or what steps God would take her through in fulfilling that promise, but she believed.
What promises do we believe? Do you believe the promises of God- the promise that if we die to ourselves we will live with him, the promise that he is the only true source of happiness? Do you believe the promise that Jesus, borne of Mary, is the fulfillment of all our desires?
Or do we listen to the promises of the world, the promise that things, created things, experiences and possessions will bring us happiness? The promise that we are just accidents, simply children of nature and not children of God?
Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.
And so how has your Advent journey been this year? Did you enjoy the scenery, filled with joyful anticipation of the fulfillment of God’s promise in the coming of Jesus? Or was it stressful, a blur of busyness, events, final exams and closing out the fourth quarter. Quite likely, for most of us, it was a mixture of both.
If your Advent has not been all you would have liked, don’t worry. You still have plenty of time. Remember God’s mercy and compassion. Tomorrow may be Christmas Eve, but your Advent journey need not end. You have perfect freedom and all the time you need to say yes to God and to heed his promises. Meditate on what God is promising you. Like Mary, you may not understand all that those promises mean, or what steps God will take you through in fulfilling them.
But, my friends, blessed, blessed are they who believe. Let the soul of Mary be in each one of us, that we too may believe what was spoken to us by the Lord.