Thursday 23th December
Elizabeth is a woman with a keen ability to truly see. She sees Mary’s pregnancy before Mary even has the chance to announce it. But she doesn’t chastise. Instead, she says, "Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!" Luke 1:45.
Elizabeth could have entered the room and led with her own miraculous story of faith, her mandate to name her son, and of his significance. She chooses instead to notice, to point to Mary’s brave move of believing that what God said is true—that she is carrying the son of the highest. She can see Mary—not the surface story that’s so easy to believe, but the deeper truth of who she really is before God. She’s an older woman encouraging a younger woman: one pregnant too soon, one unable to get pregnant, both unable to manage their wombs in socially acceptable ways, both becoming mothers at inopportune times in suspect ways. In a subversive move, Elizabeth values, even celebrates, Mary.
We all need a friend like Elizabeth. Elizabeth is well aware of how Mary might be seen in her village—an unwed, pregnant, young woman, no longer accepted in polite society. Elizabeth’s been on the other side of a judgmental gaze, too. She’s old and barren, at least up until a little bit ago. She knows the sting of whispers behind hands, of others guessing what she’s done to have God remove the blessing of children from her, of sitting outside the circle of womanly camaraderie.
Maybe Elizabeth blessed Mary so directly precisely because she knew. She knew it would be easy to believe the sideways glances and the whispers. She knew that even women who have believed the Lord can doubt themselves. So she lended her voice to the truth. So that on those harder days, Mary could remember the words of Elizabeth and stand a little taller, and believe God once again.
Sometimes we operate as if only some of us are worth a voice, a seat at the circle. This lie is based in the idea that there’s not enough for us all—not enough space, not enough glory, not enough grace, not enough resources. It values the strong, the beautiful, and the successful. It forgets the deeper truth of our belovedness and value.
I’ve had my Elizabeths. These are the people who know the messes I’d rather hide, but remind me of the gifts I bring to this complicated, wondrous life. They communicate that my particular package of personality, skills, desires, and ways of moving through the world that I have are just the ones that bring additional flavour to their circle. They imagine things for me I might be too scared to imagine for myself. They have more confidence in me than I do. And because of this, I feel strengthened and brave enough to step out in courage, take my space and lift my voice.
I want to live in a world where we learn to see the potential, the God-image in each other and we name it. We honour it and strengthen it in each other. We subvert the message that we’re not enough and that there isn’t enough. We notice. We scoot over and make a place for everyone. We see each other speak differently, take new steps, be bold, step out in courage, and stand a little taller. We listen each other into speak
with a full voice. We value what God values in one another. I want to live in this upside down economy of God where important matters are entrusted to those we least expect.
So, this advent I am committing to seeing the people on the outside or the edges, the unlikely characters, the shunned ones, the grieving ones, the displaced ones, the oppressed ones, the ones down on their luck. I will endeavour to see past the surface and gaze deeper for the reflection of God in them. When I get a glimpse of the holy promise contained inside, I will raise my voice in the spirit of Elizabeth and say, “Blessed are you!” Would you join me?
Lisa Scandrette lives in the Mission District of San Francisco with her husband Mark, where they raised three children to adulthood. She loves a slow cup of coffee in the morning, a good story, spinning wool into yarn and knitting it up, and going on adventures with Mark. She is passionate about caring for individuals and creating a more peaceful and just world. She facilitates workshops and provides administrative support for ReIMAGINE: A Centre for Integral Christian Practice and is coauthor of BELONGING and BECOMING: Creating A Thriving Family Culture and FREE: Spending Your Time and Money on What Matters Most.