During these final days of Advent, Scripture invites us to “zoom in” on the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth who together anticipate the promised birth of their son, John.

We recall Zechariah whose encounter with the angel Gabriel left him dumb. We might inquire of him now: What did you learn during your struggle with silence? Was your busy life as husband and temple minister turned more contemplative as a result of your encounter with the vision? Did you become more aware of God’s presence in your heart as the promise neared fruition? Certainly we catch a glimpse into his very soul that holds the responses to these questions as his strengthened voice soars into a canticle of praise to the Lord, the God of Israel.

And what of Elizabeth, an elderly wife who embarks on the call to motherhood. An expectant woman who exercises her role as prophetess during a visit with her cousin, Mary of Nazareth. A wisdom figure in the community who knows the joy of an awakened womb and recognizes the Christ in her midst before his birth. Might she not teach us to await even the seemingly impossible from God? Does not her vibrant witness among her Judean neighbors and relatives invite our own among our families and friends?

Inspired then by the lives of Zechariah and Elizabeth, we turn our attention in the days ahead to another couple and a promise fulfilled. We ready ourselves to companion Mary and Joseph to a birthplace in Bethlehem. There in a stable with angels, shepherds and magi, we prepare to sing our praise to Jesus Christ, God-with-us, witnessing to the world the greatest of gifts, Christmas Presence.

Sister Joanne Buckman