The coming and going of another advent season has brought with it another time to ponder the greatest miracle of all: the incarnation of our Lord.
I love Advent, the anxious awaiting of the coming of Christ. I envy Mary and Elizabeth simply for the fact that their advent lasted nine months! That happy expectation that leans into hope as the belly grows with each passing week.
But this year my Advent season was marred by the loss of a relationship that I cherished dearly, one that was beautiful and lovely in its time. I’m just beginning to pick up those pieces and admittedly I’m still struggling to find God in this mess of miscarried hope. Grief has silenced me. It has turned my worship and my celebrating into a choked whisper, unable to make it past the lump in my throat.
I’ve been thinking about Elizabeth this season, who thought she was barren until the birth of John later in her life. I imagine she suffered miscarriage after miscarriage, hope crushed year after year as a child never came to her and Zechariah.
And though it was Zechariah who first received the news of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God silenced him and he did not receive the blessing of being able to proclaim the news to anyone. Instead Elizabeth in her humility received the honor of announcing her pregnancy to the world through worship. As a woman, old and barren, she was low on the totem pole of patriarchal ancient Hebrew society, who assigned worth to women for their fertility. And yet this woman who was nothing more than a bad investment in the eyes of her culture, was the very first active character to play a role and have a voice in this New Covenant of God with creation.
This is the foreshadowing of the in-breaking of the kingdom of heaven: our man-made societal hierarchy being turned on its head.
Zechariah’s silence gives way to his wife’s praise. Elizabeth the older woman goes on to amplify and honor the worship of the younger, even lowlier Mary, pregnant out of wedlock. And it all culminates in God himself taking the form of the lowliest of humanity: a poor baby in a stable.
This is the unravelling of the curse that has bound us to our evil systems since the Garden. This is the beginning of God’s reconciling Creation and even the heartbroken get to play a role in it.
In this kingdom, the last shall be first and the first shall be last and blessed are the poor, the mourning, and the hungry. In this kingdom, we hand over our microphones to those who have been silenced and we lift up those whom our human hierarchy has humbled. At the head of this upside-down totem pole is Christ himself, the capstone the builders rejected.
My broken heart can find hope in this. My limping spirit can boast in this weakness. And in the days when I can’t even find the strength to lift up my head to the heavens, I don’t have to–because God comes down to me. God is with us.
Though it is a week late, Merry Christmas, my friends. May you carry the hope of the incarnation with you into the New Year.