Scripture Readings for December 21, 2017
As I have said in other reflections I believe we too often spiritualize God’s relationship with us. We keep God at a distance by making contact with God something elusive, ethereal and just not substantive. Today’s readings see the God/human relationship as amazingly up close and personal.
In Song of Songs the connection is openly sexual. The woman in the Song of Songs starts out by repeatedly calling the man her lover. She describes him in wonderfully admiring, masculine terms of strength and prowess. He in turn uses pet names and admiration for her beauty to ask her to reveal herself and come to him. As part of Wisdom literature there aren’t any of the references to The Lord or God that you would find in other parts of Hebrew Scripture. However, the accepted understanding is these poems are in the Bible because they are descriptions of the relationship between God and his chosen people. The description here is of two people who not only love each other they are chasing each other.
The same theme can be seen in part of today’s Psalm response. God’s plan is described as “the design of his heart.” There is an inheritance that goes to “the people he has chosen.” And the response of the people is, “our soul waits,” “our hearts rejoice,” and “we trust.” My point is simply that these words are talking about an intimate relationship with real life consequences.
In Luke’s Gospel we have not one but two examples of God’s intimate relationship with God’s people. Elizabeth was too old to have children but conceives a child anyway. Mary, a virgin, will give birth to the Savior because she has trusted in God. The story of these two women and their sons illustrates that God’s presence is here as part of human life. Perhaps just as importantly it is a story of joy. What could be more exciting and joyful than having a child? Circumstances would seem to have prevented both these pregnancies but here they are “with child” and excited to share the news.
Mary has rushed to see Elizabeth and Elizabeth with nothing more than a greeting from Mary is filled with the Spirit of the moment. She knows Mary is pregnant and that the child is the long awaited Savior. They have come together to share their joy of new life, the children they will bear. They have a special reason to be thankful. They recognize their children, these new lives, as gifts from God. The challenge for us is to be able to recognize the moments that leap for joy within us, as gifts from God.
Like the young lovers in the Sons of Songs, so excited to embrace each other, so excited to yearn and need each other, we too should gaze through windows, peer through lattices to find the God who seeks us. The story of these two women tells us the Spirit of God is within each of us. There are fresh new lives ready to be born. Will we, like Elizabeth, recognize them? Will we trust enough, like Mary, to embrace what is offered? Human birth happens every day all over this planet. Could it be that God’s gifts are just as plentiful, just as common? Perhaps the more we come together, as Mary and Elizabeth did, the easier it is to see them.