The four Sundays of Advent, Advent being our season of preparation for the arrival of the Messiah, Jesus, Immanuel; the four Sundays of Advent have taken us time traveling. In week one, to the end of all time, reminding us that the Christ upon whose birth we wait is also the Christ upon whom we wait at the end of all time - the Christ who will make all things new and reconcile and redeem this broken world and our broken lives. Then, in weeks two and three we jumped from the end of time back to nearly two thousand years ago to meet John the Baptist, crying out for us to prepare for the way of the Messiah; to get our hearts and lives in order. And here in week four, we jump still further back in time, to when John the Baptist was but a babe in his mother Elizabeth’s womb, and Elizabeth’s sister Mary, pregnant with Jesus, comes to visit.
This was an auspicious visit, this meeting of sisters: Mary and Elizabeth.
It’s interesting that a somewhat old-fashioned way of saying that a woman is pregnant is to say that a woman is “with” child. Interesting, because the term “Immanuel,” used as a name for Jesus, literally means “God with us.” So then, Mary was with the child who is with us. And there is another phrase sometimes used in English, a “pregnant pause,” a moment so full with what will come next that it is near bursting for it. This moment when the pregnant Mary and Elizabeth meet with one another, is what serves as a pregnant pause in the narrative of Advent. So then, we have two pregnant women at the center of a pregnant pause.
And we hear that the child in Elizabeth’s womb, the child who would become John the Baptist who would call people to prepare for coming of the Messiah – his earthly cousin and heavenly Savior; the baby John in Elizabeth’s womb leaps with joy when the baby Jesus, there in Mary’s womb, comes near. And Elizabeth declares that Mary is blessed among women. And then Mary declares and sings what has come to be known as the Magnificat, declaring that her soul “magnifies the Lord, and her spirit rejoices.” And Mary, pregnant with Jesus, this Savior of the Nations come, goes on to sing of how God has scattered the proud in their conceit and lifted up the lowly.
Oh, the stories of this Advent season as they take us time traveling are full and rich indeed, inviting us to prepare, prepare, prepare. For soon, so soon, the Christ child will be born. Even now John the Baptist leaps in the womb. Even now the mothers of these two remarkable figures are discussing what all of this means, and praising God. Even now Mary is with Jesus who is Immanuel, “God with us.” And soon, so soon, this “God with us,” this Immanuel will arrive to this world with all its chaos, this world and our lives with all their sorrows and stories. Soon, oh so very soon. We here in a pregnant pause with these remarkable pregnant women, waiting on the action of God in Christ that is to come. Amen.