An advent reflection by Luke Williams, Interim Director: World Relief Seattle When Mary travels (or flees?) to her cousin, Elizabeth, after the angel Gabriel gives her the surely unwelcome news that she would have a little, suspicious "Son of the Most High" growing inside her, she sings a song much like the one Hannah sung. I love this scene: two Holy Spirit-filled pregnant women embracing each other after years and a long journey apart. They are both waiting and expecting (pun intended). They can't know what will come—this is uncharted territory for them (and for the world). But, like pregnancy, this waiting and expectation is anything but inactive. The child in Elizabeth's womb leaps within her, jump-starting a geyser of prophecy and exhortation. Elizabeth blesses and affirms her young cousin, and Mary sings in the spirit of Hannah:
"My soul magnifies the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant...
"The Mighty One has done great things for me;
holy is his name.
From generation to generation,
he shows mercy to those who fear him...
"He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty."
Luke 1:46-53 I am bowled over by Mary's courage--both to receive and to rejoice in this unknown and unexplained promise of life within her. Remember, when she sings this song of joy and triumph, she has no idea how Joseph, her family and others will respond to her when she returns from Elizabeth's home, already in her second trimester. She must be deathly afraid. Yet, she sings—powerfully and beautifully. One of our staff recently shared about her experience coming to the United States as a refugee and being resettled by World Relief over twenty years ago. It wasn’t until after landing in New York City that the immigration official told her she would be coming to Seattle. “You may as well have told me I was going to the moon! I had no idea where Seattle was.” This is a frequent theme in refugee stories. The future is completely uncharted territory.
Mary, who would later become a refugee herself, could not have known what joys and sorrows would come her way when the angel first visited. Nevertheless, she chose to receive the promise, waiting to see how it would unfold. Any time a refugee flees home, the dangerous uncertainty of an unknown future accompanies the choice, but somehow the possibility of finding safety and freedom outweighs the risk. I have much to learn from refugees like Mary and my co-worker, especially about risking hope and waiting with openness. Lord, teach us to wait like Mary—actively, courageously—to wait for the Deliverer, our souls' delight.