4th Sunday of Advent – Year C

Mi 5:1-4a, Heb 10:5-10    Lk 1:39-45

BLONDE woman goes to the post office to buy stamps for her Christmas cards. She says to the clerk, “May I have 50 Christmas stamps?” The clerk says, “What denomination?” The woman says, “God help us. Has it come to this? Give me 6 Catholic, 12 Presbyterian, 10 Lutheran and 22 Baptists.

Dear friends! We are now in the final phase of the Advent season, the immediate preparation for the feast of Christmas. In the Gospel reading we are presented with the account of the visit of Mary to Elizabeth.

Mary had plenty to do. In fact, when you consider the recent events that had just occurred in her life, to say that she had to address a number of loose ends would be a major understatement. She had just been told by an angel that she was going to have a baby, and with that announcement a whole new set of responsibilities had been placed on her plate. She would have to find a way of telling Joseph the news, and she certainly worried about his response. She had to face the issues of her physical health as a pregnant mother. She had to plan for the coming of the child, where he would sleep, what he would wear, and how he would impact the normal functioning of the home. Like every new mother Mary was filled with new questions, new responsibilities and new fears.

This is what makes today’s gospel so remarkable. Because with all the issues Mary had to address, the last thing she needed was a journey to some Judean town in the hill country. But that is exactly what Mary decided to do. She chose to go out and visit her cousin Elizabeth. Mary could have found all kinds of excuses from making this trip: “I should not travel if I am pregnant. This is not the best weather for a journey in the mountains. Elizabeth has her own family to support her and certainly she would understand if I stayed at home.” Many good excuses, but Mary chose to follow none of them. For Mary the primary thing was the people in her life. If her cousin was bearing new life, it was appropriate that the two should be together to celebrate that gift from God.

This story of the visitation not only gives us information about Mary and Elizabeth, but it also gives us an example of how we are to live. This story reminds us of the importance of taking time to recognize and appreciate the people in our lives. We need this lesson this weekend more than ever. For this coming weekend we celebrate Christmas. Now I presume that most of you are ready or close to ready. Most of the gifts have been bought and perhaps wrapped. The menus are set. The schedules have been verified with those who will participate. Cards have been written. Phone calls have been made. Everything is in its place, and all that is required now is to execute the plan.

This gospel reminds us that as we carry out the plans for our Christmas celebrations we should not forget the people. With all the attention we give to the gifts, and the food and the traditions, it is easy to leave the people behind. We can become so preoccupied with the details of hospitality that we forget to recognize and to spend time with the people who we love. What a waste that would be. What a terrible distortion of the feast that we celebrate. Because all the things we do, all the traditions we follow are for the sake of the people we love.

With all that she had to do, with all that was on her mind, Mary found time to be with her cousin Elizabeth. Mary knew that nothing was more important than her and her cousin coming together to celebrate the new life that was growing within them. Let’s follow Mary’s example. Even if it means that you will not be able to do everything you want, do not let your responsibilities detract from the time and the appreciation of the people who will be with you this weekend.

Take time to listen to them, to speak to them, to laugh with them and perhaps to cry with them. People come first and without people there can be no true celebration of Christmas.

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