Reflect Emmanuel is a series of Advent meditations on Emmanuel, our God with us
December 23, 2013Crista Carrick Mahoney, Campus Minister for Social Justice and Education
As the second child in my family, it was at times challenging to forge my own path. I played the same sports as my sister, shared the same major in college, and even followed in her footsteps to graduate school. My parents used to say that my older sister would walk through life with a machete, hacking her way through the jungle, making her own path. I would follow behind with my pruning shears, trimming back branches to make the path my own. Although this always felt less adventuresome, I have learned that it’s not always such a bad thing to follow the trailblazer, and those pruning shears were my tools to follow the way that was opening to me, my “yes” to the path.
Each of today’s readings speaks of God’s way, or path. Malachi prophesies about the messenger, the one who will prepare the way of the Lord, and Elijah who will return to “turn the hearts” of the people toward one another so they are ready for what is to come. The psalmist begs the Lord, “Your ways… make known to me, teach me your paths”. They remind me that Advent is an invitation to say “yes” along the way. Sometimes it’s a great big “YES” like Mary’s, a yes that takes a machete to cut through the jungle of our lives. But more often it is in small, incremental ways that we say to God, “Teach me your path” as we wield our pruning shears to make choices that add up over time.
For Elizabeth and Zechariah in today’s Gospel, John’s birth and naming is a way of recognizing all the little ways they have said yes to God’s invitation. John means “Yahweh has been gracious.” Elizabeth and Zechariah’s choice of name is an act of gratitude. As we reach the penultimate day before Christmas, let us take a moment to recognize in that spirit of gratitude the ways we say “yes” to God in small and big ways so that we can welcome Emmanuel into our hearts and ask “what then, will this child be?”