This reflection was published as part of the Advent Guide 2021: A Time of Hope and Healing.
“Blessed are you who believed that
what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
- Luke 1: 45
In the first reading this Sunday, the Prophet Micah proclaims, “You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah, too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me, one who is to be ruler in Israel, his greatness shall reach to the ends of the Earth; he shall be peace.”
In the Gospel, we hear of the interaction between two women who miraculously find themselves pregnant – Elizabeth, who was “advanced in years,” and Mary, who was unwed. They marvel at God’s work in their lives.
In reading their story, we, too, can marvel at the humble way through which God chose to come into our world. Christ was born in Bethlehem, a city Micah recalls as “too small” and insignificant to be among the clans of Judah, born as a helpless infant to a poor, obscure teenage mother. How could this event possibly be the source of all of our salvation?
It speaks to one of the deepest truths of the Christian faith: that God values and lifts up that which the world considered worthless, sees those who are obscure, empowers those who are powerless.
During the dark days of the pandemic, we have become more aware of our powerlessness and insecurity. The health and economic crises, on top of the climate crisis, have exposed the truly vulnerable in our society and the ways our global systems value some lives and disregard others.
On a national level, this was made manifest in the fact that Black, Indigenous, Latino, and Pacific Islanders experienced a death rate from COVID-19 more than double that of white or Asian Americans. Those who worked as “essential workers” – often in unprotected, minimum wage-jobs – were put at grave risk. On an international level, lockdowns allowed some security for the elite while leaving millions of impoverished people cut off from jobs, schooling, even food. We see the way much of the global population has no vaccine access, while wealthy countries contemplate booster shots with their excess doses.
As we conclude Advent and prepare to celebrate Christmas, we are invited through the story of Christ’s miraculous and humble birth to have hope amidst these overwhelming global challenges.
Reflecting on the scene between Mary and Elizabeth, Maryknoll lay missioner Claire Stewart in Brazil writes, “I suppose, in many ways, by saying, ‘Yes’ Mary realized her decision to assume the presence of Christ within herself affected more than just her, but the millions of people who have been born since then. When she shared the good news with Elizabeth, Mary created a communion of joy between herself and Elizabeth. We have the opportunity to use Mary’s example daily by being a witness to God in whatever ways God is calling us.
"By sharing Christ with others just as Mary did with Elizabeth, there is an opportunity to allow new life to flourish. We never know what goodness may come from the smallest of our actions, whether it be a nod of acknowledgment or a short conversation.“
Questions for Reflection:
Who are the people who are disregarded or unvalued in your community? How are you being invited to say “Yes” to God’s will in this Advent season?
Mary’s Prayer: The Magnificat
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children forever.
Faith in Action:
Immigrants and refugees are some of the most disvalued or “discarded” people in our society, despite many of them working in “essential” industries during the pandemic. Click here to urge your Members of Congress to keep working for just immigration reform.