Friday, December 21, 2012

Serving a Cousin, Celebrating a Baby

I began this Advent season by traveling to the hill country (literally, a place called Holy Hill) to help my cousin who had just had a baby boy.

Granted I didn't have to make the journey by foot or caravan, I enjoyed thinking of Mary, the Blessed Mother, who also hurried to the hills to be with her cousin Elizabeth just after the angel announced that she would conceive the Son of God. Why do you think Mary traveled "in haste"? These details in Scripture are often hints in unpacking the story. I always thought of her rushing forth with missionary zeal as a completely selfless act of service - until I watched The Nativity Story this month, which gave me a new perspective. The film showed the events in such a real, human way, and I realized that if I were a young girl who’d just heard such astonishing news as Mary and was faced with what was to happen next, I would likely respond as she does in the movie - plead my parents to let me take a short trip away so I could sort out these miraculous events.

Certainly, Mary did participate in hard work and help out while she was there, but a primary reason for her visit was likely to seek understanding and to “figure out” how in the world she was going to explain this pregnancy to Joseph, and her parents. Would Joseph divorce her? Stone her in the streets? What would her baby be like if he were the Son of God?

Doing laundry, changing diapers, cleaning house, cooking meals are all great ways to serve, but they aren't the reason we do it. When we serve, we are looking to give and receive human love.

So when Mary remembered the part of the angel's message that Elizabeth was also pregnant in a miraculous way, she goes and seeks answers there. I can relate with a young woman like this, seeking understanding from others and pondering the Lord’s will for her life with another woman of strong faith.

I love the scene in the movie when Elizabeth hears Mary coming, turns around, and bursts out in joy, "Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken by the Lord would be fulfilled!" (Luke 1:45). And Mary responds, “How did you know?”

We all need people in our lives to be on the journey with us and give us some spiritual direction along the way. Sometimes we need others to point out the signs that God is at work in our lives. This must have been one of those “signs” to Mary that God was with her and that everything would somehow turn out alright. How often do we recognize that in each other and say, “Wow! God is at work in you! I can see your spiritual muscles being trained for something great He has in store for you!”

The five days I spent with my cousin, her husband, and child were so precious and reminded me of what Christmas is all about. It started with a newborn child and parents, poor shepherds and rich kings, all given the grace to accept the Gift, even when the Gift came unexpected and unplanned for. 

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