Visitation: an Advent meditation

by William C. Weedon

Ours was always a quiet home. God had not blessed us with children, and after many years together, a husband and wife learn to carry on conversations without words. A look and a look back can speak volumes. Yet we did talk. Sometime at night, after the lamps were put out, I’d stretch out beside my old Zechariah and say: “tell me the promises again.”

You see, he was a priest. He knew the Sacred writings of Torah and the Prophets. And he loved to recite the promises about the Coming One, the One who would make all things right again for a world where so much has gone wrong. He’d begin whispering them to me: “To us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder.” “And you, Bethlehem Ephratha, are by no means least among the tribes of Judah, for out of you will come a Ruler who will govern my people Israel.” “His dominion will be from sea to sea, from the river to the ends of the earth.” “The wolf shall lie down with the lamb.” Oh, he could go on forever; he knew them all. He’d long ago stored them away in his heart, and he loved nothing more than to repeat them. They were his prayer, his hope. He was one of the Zedek—the righteous—who looked for the salvation of Israel.

Something had happened
When he came home from doing his priestly duty that year, he didn’t need to tell me he couldn’t talk. One look told me something had happened. His eyes were full of excitement and hope like I’d not seen in him since he was a young man. I thought he might have a fever. It took a while to get the whole story out of him. I think he was a little ashamed. It was not like him—questioning the word of one of the Lord’s angels? That was not like my husband at all. But still, the promise was staggering. We were to have a child? Now? And our child was to be the one that the prophets had foretold? The one to prepare the way for the Lord, the Messenger sent before the Lord’s face? The fulfillment of all things was now? In our lives?

When I first felt the little one move in my womb I could do nothing. I stood still and tears streamed down my face. Then laughter and joy. Our God—He comes up with the craziest ideas! Old ladies carrying little babies. Our God, the God of the universe, He promises the impossible and then He makes it happen. No good trying to wrap your mind around His ways. His goodness is beyond our thinking, His love beyond our dreams.

Summersaults of joy
Five months our house was mostly silent. Zechariah watched impatiently as my womb began to swell. And there were days he’d lay his hand upon it and we’d look into each others eyes and one would start laughing and the other crying. Five months of silence in the house and then one day, a miracle greater than our little boy’s conception came running up to the door.

I heard her voice. She was calling a greeting: Shalom, Cousin Elizabeth! And that is when it happened. My little one was doing summersaults in my womb—summersaults of joy. And the Holy Spirit came upon me and I saw the whole thing. My eyes were opened like they’d never been opened before. All the past seemed like a dream, and in shock and awe at what I had seen, I stood to my feet.

Mother of so much more
She came to me, a look on her face, a questioning look. She thought no one knew. I let her know different right away. “Blessed!” I cried. “Blessed are you among women!” And blessed indeed, for no other woman would be both Virgin and Mother, and not just the mother of a miracle baby like my own.

The mother of . . . The mother of so much more. I can barely bring myself to say it even after all these years. “Blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Ah, that was the heart of it. She walked into my house and it was as though the Ark of the Covenant had arrived, and hidden in the Ark, the beating heart of my God taken flesh. The Messiah, the One about whom all the promises centered. The One God who told Abraham he would bring blessing to all the families of the earth. The Serpent Crusher. The One to lead us back to Paradise. He was in my house. In her womb. His infant heart beating beneath her heart. “And why is this granted to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?” The look on her face! The child melted. I held her as she wept. It was a fearful secret she had been hiding. But here it was safe.

I pulled back from her and gave my old goat sitting in the corner a proper look. I pointed to her and said: “Blessed is she who BELIEVED that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” My old goat, my Zechariah, he laughed and laughed his silent laugh, agreeing with me. She had believed, and she was blessed.

And then she opened her mouth again and spoke—a hymn of praise to the One who had chosen her in love, and she foretold how every generation from that day to the end of time would remember and join in calling her blessed. Ah, the poetry of her song and the fire of her words that day!

Blessed among women
She stayed with us for the next three months. How we talked much during those days—our house was silent no more. The last months are never easy, certainly not for old women. And she was there to help me through those hard days and to share our joy when the little lad revealed his face. She saw her divine Son’s forebearer: our John! And then she left; she went home to meet her Joseph and to face whatever it was that God willed for her.

There are those who think she is a almost a goddess—but they are being foolish. There are those who think that she is just an ordinary person like themselves—they are just as foolish. You must think of her as the Holy Spirit taught me that day she came to me: blessed among women, blessed in the fruit of her womb, and blessed above all in believing the Words of her Lord.

You can’t go wrong if you follow her example, you people who live in the time of the great fulfillment. You can’t go wrong if you also learn to say to God: “Let it be to me according to your Word” and if you learn to trust every promise God makes you, no matter how impossible, how shocking, how unreasonable. You can’t go wrong if you open up your heart and your life and give space for the Child of Mary to come and live in you, bringing you the joy of presence. It won’t mean an easy time in this world—how she found that out!—but it will mean the joy of a life that death cannot bring to an end. For it will be God’s life, the life He reaches us all in His Son, the Child of Mary, the Mother of God. Blessed be He! Blessed be He forever! Amen.

The Rev. William C. Weedon is Director of Worship and International Center Chaplain for the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

(from the Forum Letter, December 2013, published by the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau)

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