From Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent
And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house. (Luke 1:56)
Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draws nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge stands before the door. Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. (James 5:7-10)
The narrative leaves out so much information concerning the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth. Perhaps we can imaginatively consider the space they shared during Mary’s three-month visit. Given their experiences, they would undoubtedly have relished the chance to ponder the holy words spoken about their miraculous pregnancies. They could share their excitement as well as their fears, possible anxieties, and insecurities of being suited for the tasks before them. Even with the level of faith they possessed, they must have experienced moments, if not days, of restlessness, worry, and anticipation. Elizabeth and Mary could strengthen one another’s hearts. Perhaps they prayed together regularly. Maybe the wisdom and trials of Elizabeth’s years provided comfort and security to a frightened though courageous Mary.
Advent seems as much a time to dwell in holy friendship as a time to wait on God. Ultimately, we are all called to friendship with God, and we imitate this divine call to friendship as we practice sharing ourselves and our stories with one another. In our congregations and faith communities, we laud romantic relationships and focus all our relational energies on the states of marriages or single people. Our foundation for understanding God’s covenantal love for us has become steeped in romantic and sexual ways of being together. Such spaces do provide avenues for God’s redeeming love, but Jesus was never married or romantically involved with anyone as far as we know. And when Christ speaks of his way of relating to his beloved disciples, he calls them his friends. Friendship is another way of being in covenant with God.
We have allowed our culture’s obsession with romance and sex to dictate how we view life-giving relationships. We have dulled friendship’s ability to illuminate the corners of our lives. We can endure very little without the support of friends. Choosing to open ourselves in friendship and to expose our vulnerabilities relieves the weight of carrying our burdens alone.
When God’s promise not to leave us alone finds fulfillment in the people God sends to be with us. Sit quietly during this season and prayerfully reflect on the friends who remind us of who we are, who challenge us to live into who we are called to be, and who accept us at every stage of the journey. These people mirror God’s love and patience in our lives. How do we mirror God’s presence in the lives of those who call us friends?
Holy God, in Christ Jesus you call us friends. Equip us to be friends who offer sustenance to one another as we learn of covenantal love from our friendship with you. Amen.