Monday, Fourth Week of Advent:
The only way to begin looking at today’s readings is to point out the distinct parallel of two women, barren and derided because of it, hearing from an angel of God that they will bear a son. Sons who will “begin the deliverance of Israel.” Luke is using this pattern to connect his story of salvation with Israel’s historical and religious story of liberation. For us, set in this Advent season before Christmas it emphasizes a sense of preparation. God doesn’t just drop in out of nowhere. God arrives as part of the history that people already know. God is woven into the patterns of life we understand.
On an individual basis it’s interesting that these men who are going prepare the way for God’s saving of Israel are being chosen before they were born. God isn’t asking them to change lives that are well underway like Moses or Abraham or any of the apostles. These guys will “be consecrated to God from the womb.” This condition is also claimed for Isaac, Samuel, Jesus, of course, and Catholics believe it was also true for Mary in the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. Each of these people have a special role to play in salvation history. They are models of being committed to God literally from womb to tomb.
Personally I think these stories are a way to tell us how God operates all the time. We are all chosen before birth as God’s children and empowered by the Spirit to make good things happen. To free our people from fear and hatred through love and mercy. The part we need to remember is that from the beginning, our very beginning, we have not been alone. God put this all in motion. The issue for us is to recognize that we have been “filled with the Holy Spirit” from our mother’s womb and “the Spirit of the Lord stirred” us so we would have the strength to make the world a better place. Our Psalm today says exactly the same thing. “On you I depend from birth; from my mother’s womb you are my strength.”
This is the last week of Advent, shortly the Christmas story will go even further saying that God’s very self comes into our world. For now these readings suggest God has been acting in human history, acting in our lives, for a long time. Maybe it says that before we can rejoice in a God fully present, see ourselves as supported by a God of love, we should look for markers throughout our lives. Maybe we need to consider everything from the beginning to get a true sense of what is valuable for us. A good look back may help us recognize what brought us to this time when everything is about to change. When even if we have felt barren and empty a new child is about to be born.