We are a small group of women who made a commitment to one another to journey together through the first three weeks of Advent, taking time out of our busy schedules and over-crowded calendars to find a sense of peace and meaning together. We responded to a call to step away from our obligations and the enticements of our commercialized holiday season to support and encourage one another and to remember why we make all these preparations in the first place and for Whom.
I imagine our gathering not unlike that of a young Jewish girl, pregnant and unwed, who sought the company of another woman who would hold her in the midst of her fear and confusion and wonder.
I try to picture what those three months together were like. What did Mary and Elizabeth talk about? What did they do in the course of the day? What sort of preparations did they make for themselves – an old woman and a young girl both suddenly and unexpectedly pregnant? Did they make swaddling bands and weave clothing for the infant boys they carried in their wombs? How many nights did they spend by candlelight wondering, marveling, pondering the holy mysteries surrounding their pregnancies?
My heart has grown tired after all these years of the image of the blonde, pious woman, clothed in soft blue garments, with her hands folded and eyes downcast. I cannot relate any more to that image of the woman chosen to bear the Son of God. I think there is far more to Mary than has been credited to her.
To be more accurate, she was a young Palestinian Jewish woman, most likely with dark olive skin and black hair and probably dressed in coarse fabric with earthy colors befitting the lower class she was a part of. Frightened? Yes. Confused? Yes. But weak? No. She was well aware of the law that made her subject to stoning when the word got out that she was pregnant and not married. She had questions, as anyone would, and the answer she received was mysterious. I don’t see her affirmative response as being easily given either. The uncertainty she faced would certainly cause most of us to respond much differently. Not me! Find someone else. I can’t deal with this! Too much risk involved. What will people think! Indeed, what will people think?
It took a strong, trusting woman to say yes to God’s messenger. It took a strong, trusting woman to undertake a long and dangerous journey to visit her elderly cousin. Surely it must have been the Spirit inside that Mary responded to again, prompting and urging her to go to the one woman who would understand, who would accept and not judge, one who could hold her fears and encourage and support her during her own personal Advent journey.