This is the fourth Sunday in Advent when we go on a journey with Mary to visit her cousin Elizabeth and share her good and amazing news of bearing the Christ-child, Jesus (Luke 1:39-45). How good it is that Mary has Elizabeth to share with, for despite her unqualified YES to God, she must be full of many feelings just bursting to be shared. How we thank God for our close friends and relatives this Christmas-tide. How blessed are we to have loved ones in our lives who can share anything and everything. The visit between two women who are so close to one another that the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaps for joy at Mary’s words is not an unusual visit, especially around Christmas. We seek out and long to be near those we love and those we can share everything with.
In our church we are celebrating Christmas along with this fourth Sunday in Advent for some practical reasons, especially to include all of the families and individuals in Christmas joy and gifting. So we capture the themes of Fourth Advent and connect them to the first Christmas. We are particularly happy to blend this reading about Mary and Elizabeth with the usual Christmas Gospel in Luke 2:1-14 as that enables us to include another important woman, in addition, of course, to Mary who gives her all, in the litany of characters in the Christmas story who are traditionally otherwise all male. We have a Pageant/Tableau with all of the children acting out the Christmas story after the Mass. We have some of the girls enact shepherds and wise people along with the boys, and both boys and girls are angels and animals. We talk about the mothering and fathering of our loving and gifting God along with the mothering and fathering and gifting of Joseph and Mary. In our congregation many are fictive kin, meaning non blood kin, so Joseph fits right in in whatever way he is presented. We make all of the congregation participants in the first Christmas and in receiving the Christ-Child this Christmas. Then the gifts are given at the end. Although the material gifts are important to our people, the gift of love is what we experience and want the most, and that is freely given and fully received.
Some of our families will not have much to open on Christmas but long to stay home and celebrate that day together, so we provide a special celebration and gifting ahead of time. Due to the love and generosity of our donors, each one present is given a gift, and the parents take home bags of gifts for the children to be opened on Christmas-they are also given gifts for themselves and gift cards and funds to use as they wish or must as bills do not stop at Christmas. Yet, the celebration of our church family , being together, worshipping together, laughing and sharing together as Mary and Elizabeth did, and most of all loving one another is the greatest gift to take home. God’s gift of Love at Christmas is cause for celebration every day of the year.
May you all be blessed on Christmas with gifts of love, people to share with, and the great joy of knowing God is with us in a new way, born again in our hearts this Christmas. Make room for Christ to be born in your heart and life this Christmas!
Love and blessings,
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Co-Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers