Why does Mary leave her home and set out “with haste” to her cousin Elizabeth? Is she afraid of being found pregnant? Is she afraid of her coming marriage? Is she simply in need of her cousin, her friend, one who understands her deepest thoughts and fears and longings?
That is Elizabeth. Her cousin. Her friend. Who tells Mary:
Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.
You are right, Elizabeth says to Mary. You are right to believe. You are right to hope. You are right to know yourself as good and chosen and important.
Do you believe that? Do you believe that you are good and chosen and important in this world? Do you believe you can make a difference and you will make a difference? Can you believe that? Can I? Can we believe it of ourselves and of each other?
Faith and hope go together, and we need both in these darkest hours of the year, when the winds and the presidents and the powerful howl and storm and threaten. We walk in darkness, and yet we must believe and hope, so that we can continue to walk.
The prophet Isaiah tells us:
The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.
Out of her darkness, Mary speaks the ringing confidence of her Magnificat. She speaks with the confidence of faith: these things that God has promised, she says, they will happen, they have happened, they will happen again.
God has shown strength and scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly.
God has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
This Advent Sunday, we need those promises, that faith, that hope. We need to believe in the promise that for those who dwell in a land of deep darkness, the light will shine again. We need to believe in ourselves and in one another and in our strength to do God’s work on earth as we walk, together, toward that promised light.