Christmas is a time many of us spend with family and friends. It can be a time of joy and relaxation, but it can also be a time of anxiety and stress. Traveling to see family, in the best of times, takes effort, and during the Christmas season it can become downright stressful. Sometimes it is easier to just not go.
The Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Advent gives us a wonderful image of Mary traveling to see her family. She has just learned that her relative, Elizabeth, is going to have a baby. It is no doubt a joyful time. But I'm sure it was also stressful. Mary had to travel there, while pregnant herself. Elizabeth's husband, Zechariah, is currently unable to speak (for more on that you can read Luke 1:5-20) and she is, we are told, getting up there in age. A joyful time to be sure, but a potentially stressful one as well.
Into the middle of that comes Mary, and with Mary comes Jesus. When Mary arrives we are told that Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and greets Mary saying "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?" In Mary, Elizabeth recognizes Jesus. She understands that Mary is the one who is bring her Lord to her.
We aren't physically carrying Jesus, but as Catholics we are called to bring Jesus with us wherever we go, and to be missionary disciples. Like Mary, we have encountered Jesus and are now called to bring Him with us in all of our interactions, be they joyful and wonderful, anxious or stressful.
This Advent and Christmas gives us opportunities to interact with many different people, family, friends, and strangers. Some of our interactions will be brief, and some might last days. We might be joyful or stressed, or both. But no matter the length of time we spend with people, it is our call as Christians to act in such a way that everyone we interact with can say that a follower of Jesus, a follower of the Lord, came to them.
The Gospel Acclamation for the Fourth Sunday of Advent is the words of Mary at the Annunciation: "Here am I, the servant of the Lord: let it be done to me according to your word". With those words Mary set out to see Elizabeth, and with those same words may we set out to share Christ with the world this Advent and Christmas.
Rebecca Spellacy is the Associate Director of Liturgy for the Office of Formation for Discipleship in the Archdiocese of Toronto.