FIRST LESSON: Luke 1:5-25
SECOND LESSON Luke 1:39-45
SERMON: “Characters of Christmas - Elizabeth”
I want to make a public service announcement to the men in this congregation. Gentlemen –, it’s time to do your Christmas shopping. I hope our men have this task already out of the way. But just in case, please heed my announcement.
Now I heard that a certain couple in this church], who shall re
main nameless slipped off Frankenmuth to do their Christmas shopping and somehow they got separated for several hours. Fortunately they had their cell phones with them.
“Honey, where are you!?” the woman asked.
“Sweetheart,” he said, “do you remember when we were first married the jewelry shop where you saw that diamond necklace you loved? But we didn’t have enough money at the time, so I said, ‘Someday I’ll come back to this shop and buy that necklace for you.’ Do you remember?”
“Yes!” she shouts, excitedly.
“Well,” he said, “I’m in the Home Depot next door to that jewelry shop getting some supplies.”
The big day is only nine days away. We are a little over half way through another exhausting Advent season. So many things required our attention. – At least the cookie walk is done!
Today’s scripture readings from Luke tell us how Mary, shortly after learning that she was pregnant, went to stay with her cousin Elizabeth, who was now in her sixth month. It was a journey of about 100 miles – on foot, quite an undertaking for a young woman in her first trimester. And yet likely Mary just wanted to get away, clear her head, think about how to handle her situation. She probably needed someone to talk to --- anyone but her mother, a trusted female relative – Elizabeth fit the bill.
In the few, short verses from Luke that give us Elizabeth’s response as she greets Mary upon her arrival, three times Elizabeth uses the word “blessed.”
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! . . . . Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
We have a tendency to think that when a person is blessed it means they have good things in life: Money – at least enough to pay their bills, if they are very blessed they can afford some of the “finer things” in life. Good health, meaningful work we enjoy, happy relationships, loving family. These are all blessings. We often think of blessedness in terms of comfort and ease.
Mary blessed? She faced the wagging tongues of family and neighbors as she bore a child before her marriage to Joseph. Not long after the child was born she and Joseph and the baby had to flee to Egypt and live as refugees to escape Herod’s attempts to kill the child. Could she escape feelings of guilt knowing how many mothers lost their infants to Herod’s cruelty? Blessed? To hear people speak of her son as insane when he began his preaching ministry? Blessed? To know the Temple priests and lawyers were out to get him. Blessed? To weep at the foot of a Roman cross as her son was put to death in the most excruciating way ever devised by humankind?
When Elizabeth said that Mary was blessed, there was nothing about material goods, money, health, family or job. Elizabeth understood that Mary was blessed because she was a trusting participant in God’s plan. Think for a moment about the people Jesus called “blessed.”
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.(B)
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.(C)
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
. . .
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
When we pray asking God to bless us, we should be careful. Being blessed by God doesn’t necessarily mean a life of comfort. It does mean being a trusting participant in God’s plan.
Mary was fortunate to have Elizabeth as a mentor in her life – an older cousin to whom she could go for advice and comfort. Who is your Elizabeth? Who helps you see things from a clear perspective?
I am fortunate to have several Elizabeths in my life. My sisters are Elizabeth to me. My friend Pat, and Pastor Dan in Spring Lake are Elizabeth to me. Sometimes some of you in this congregation are Elizabeth to me. But the first person who jumped into my mind when I pondered the question of who is Elizabeth to me is my friend Ruth. Ruth and I became friends back in the early 80’s when I was living in Hesperia. She was a member of the Presbyterian Church there. We started out riding bicycles together in the mornings for exercise. Then her knees got too bad, so we switched to walking. You can’t walk with someone for half an hour to forty-five minutes five days a week and not get to know each other. After we walked we often stood on the street corner and continued our conversations for another fifteen minutes. Like Elizabeth was Mary’s older cousin, Ruth is a bit older than I – 20 years older actually. One day when she realized that she exclaimed, “I’m old enough to be your mother!” From that day on I called her “ma” and she called me “kid.”
It was to Ruth I went when my life seemed to be coming apart at the seams. As I got ready to go to Chicago to start seminary, I remember Ruth saying to me in doubting moments, “You will make it, my dear.” For the next three and a half years, when we got a chance to talk on the phone, every conversation included her saying to me, “You will make it, my dear.”
Being blessed doesn't necessarily mean that life will be comfortable or easy. It does mean living and being a part of God’s plan. Doing that and staying mentally and emotionally healthy requires having an Elizabeth in your life. Who is Elizabeth to you? And to whom are you Elizabeth? Who is there who needs your encouragement? Your advice? The benefit of your experience? The gift of your prayers? I can never do for Ruth what she has done for me. But God gives us opportunities to ‘pay it forward.’ So there are people for whom I get to be Elizabeth. For whom are you Elizabeth?