Statue of Mary overlooking treetops

December 20, 2020 | Frances Kummer | Today's Readings

“Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God.” -Luke 1:30

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”

As we near Christmas, we are reminded of the familiar story of Mary and Elizabeth. The interconnection between these two women and the lives they nurtured are essential to the story of salvation.  

But what brought Mary to visit her kinswoman in those early months of her pregnancy? What might she have been facing?

As a Jewish woman, Mary would have been seen as having committed adultery, a most grievous offense. Under Jewish law, she would have been judged, convicted, and sentenced to death. But her story involves another pivotal player — Joseph — so it doesn’t end here. 

According to Scripture, Joseph was a “righteous man” — a good man who was faithful and held strictly to the law. Joseph had every right to walk away from Mary and to demand justice. Can we imagine the anger, betrayal, and hurt he must have felt?

We hear in Matthew’s Gospel: “An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.’” 

What did it take for Joseph, a servant of the law, to show mercy? 

I don’t think we realize what a dramatic conversion of heart and mind took place in Joseph for him to even hear the angel. That conversion resulted in a call to discipleship. Joseph could now see Mary the way God saw her, and their connectedness grew. 

For both Mary and Joseph, the “Spirit of the Lord was upon them.” The “image of God” in Mary met the “image of God” in Joseph, and together they changed the world.

Like Mary, Joseph, and Elizabeth, we are all called to this story: the human story of redemption, hope, and healing — a story mixed with joy, suffering, gratitude, trauma, and hope.  

Let us ask ourselves: What today is keeping us from fully entering into this story? Are our mindsets so strong that we can’t hear others? What stories are we refusing to hear; what do we fear? How are we seeking to understand those who are different from us, and with whom we disagree?

How are we challenged today to see each other the way God sees us — as made in his own image and likeness? How can we see each other as part of the story?

We can all be like Mary, Elizabeth, and Joseph. We all have a role in bringing the love of Christ into the world. 

This week, we can look inward for transformation instead of looking for others to change. We can be opened to the Holy Spirit coming upon us, and the love of the Christ Child growing within us, healing us. 

We can be healed of our stubbornness, our prejudices, our biases. We can be renewed and restored. We can give birth to God’s love growing within us for the restoration and healing of our world.  

Let us remember the words of the angel are for us, too: 

Do not be afraid,
for you have found favor with God.