Contemporary Scripture Reflections for Spiritual Seekers
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, BCC, PCC
SUNDAY BIBLETALK
December 19th, 2021
The Fourth Sunday of Advent

Come, Holy Light
C.2021

Come, Holy Light
Guide us
Through the dark days,
Be the radiance
That leads us
Through deep valleys
And treacherous ravines,
Comfort us at eventide
Shelter us from plagues,
Doubt and uncertainty,
From disbelief and despair.

Be with us
In our grieving,
In our keening,
In our lamentations
For a world
So desperately in need
Of your healing grace.

O, Holy Light
You are the Star of Wonder
Brightening the shortest of days,
The Sun,
Son of the Most High,
Light of the World
Shining among us
Even when we know you not
And cannot behold your Presence.

Be with us
In our grieving,
In our keening,
In our lamentations
For a world
So desperately in need
Of your healing grace.

Let your Star
Rest above our homes
That your Light may be born in us
This Christmas.
May your glory
Illumine our hearts
That we may comfort
Your people
For your sake,
And for their sake
And for ours.
Amen.



UPCOMING COURSES

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QUESTIONS
FOR REFLECTION

  • For what are you waiting this Christmas?

  • How do you intend to "wait out" these last few days before Christmas?

  • For what are you waiting in your own life as the year draws to an end?

  • What makes waiting difficult for you?

  • What is the gift of waiting?


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Greetings, SBT Readers!

And so Christmas is just a few days away now; the time of waiting is nearly over. Sadly, in our secular culture, the wait for the Holy Birth is eclipsed by the wait for the Amazon truck. Each day, trucks bearing the Amazon logo bustle around residential neighborhoods with their endless deliveries. In front of every door -- my own included-- packages stack up on a regular basis. Some contain gifts, others daily necessities and, still others, whimsical purchases. Regardless as to what we have ordered, however, we expect quick deliveries to avoid the inconvenience of having to wait. This expectation has proven deadly for Amazon workers.

Shockingly, during Friday's devastating tornadoes, Amazon workers were expected to meet production and delivery goals or be fired, despite all the warnings. As a result, six workers died in Edwardsville, IL, when the Amazon warehouse collapsed. You can read a detailed account here.

It is easy to blame Amazon for the tragedy; however, some self-reflection is warranted. Amazon's relentless pursuit of efficiency at the expense of workers' lives is driven by societal expectations. People no longer tolerate delays or having to wait. Instead, the demand is for instant gratification. An extreme example of this happened in April of this year when a woman in Memphis, TN, opened fire on Burger King employees because she was tired of waiting. This inability to wait also explains why celebrating Advent has become a liturgical observation rather than a spiritual practice for Christians outside their places of worship. To all intents and purposes, "Christmas" has been here since Halloween!

There are still six more days before Christmas -- let us enter the stillness and silence in preparation for the Birth!


A Blessed Advent!

Elizabeth


SCRIPTURE REFLECTION

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb, 
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, 
cried out in a loud voice and said, 
“Blessed are you among women, 
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me, 
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”
LK 1:39-47

There are so many details that Luke omits from his narrative of Mary's visit to Elizabeth. In the first place, there is the gap between the Annunciation and Mary's departure. What does Mary share with her parents? Do they know about the pregnancy? And what does Joseph know at this point? In Matt.1:18-25, Joseph decides "to divorce her quietly" but there is no mention of this in Luke's account. Instead, Mary acts in a remarkably free manner, setting out on a 100 mile journey through bandit-infested hills. Of course, she most likely travels with a caravan but, even so, the journey is dangerous and definitely uncomfortable for a woman in her first trimester. Again, Luke provides no details. In a single sentence, Mary "sets out" and "arrives" (Lk 1:39-40). We know she travels "in haste" but Luke's account by-passes the journey altogether so Mary can enter the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth as quickly as possible. "What's the hurry?" we might ask. "Why is the visit to Elizabeth so significant?"

In footnotes to the NAB translation, there are two important observations. The first is that Elizabeth's pregnancy serves as the sign Mary receives in response to her question, "How can this be since I have no relations with a man?" (Lk 1:34). The news that her elderly relatives are expecting a child reminds Mary that nothing is impossible to God: if the impossible can happen for Elizabeth, then it can also happen for Mary. Secondly, in contrast to Zechariah who disbelieves Gabriel's message that he is to be a father, Mary believes and her journey to visit her relatives reflects this. Elizabeth, in fact, commends her for this belief: "Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled" (Lk1:45).

The story of The Visitation invites us to suspend all disbelief and to enter into the mystery of the season. Like both Zechariah and Mary, we might ask, "How can this be? What sign can you give us?" The amazing news of the Incarnation is too much for any of us to comprehend and this is precisely why we need biblical witnesses like Mary, Elizabeth, the shepherds, the Magi and even the voice of that dastardly Herod who clearly believes, despite his ill intentions.

But believing in the impossible goes beyond the Christmas story. All things are possible to God in our own lives as well, and, even if Gabriel fails to remind us of this, each of us has some touchstone moment or another which proves this. We may have forgotten those moments, or they may have grown dim but they are there if we look for them -- moments of being "in flow" or of great creativity; moments of achieving a goal despite all odds or of overcoming some seemingly insurmountable obstacle; moments of deep healing or forgiveness; opportunities to start over and build anew...

The great reminder of Christmas is that nothing-- absolutely nothing-- is impossible to God. This is our faith and this is our joy!

RESOURCES
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Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart | www.elizabeth-annestewart.com | e.a.stewart@sbcglobal.net

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