We’ve become so familiar with the elements of the Christmas story that they can lose a little of their impact. We sing ‘O little town of Bethlehem’ perhaps without realizing just how insignificant this little town was. It was a small hilltop town, just 5 miles south of Jerusalem. In today’s first reading the prophet Micah promises great things for this little town. From Bethlehem a new king will be born and his leadership style will be quite unlike that of previous kings. He will guard and defend the people like a shepherd. There’s none of the worldly power and might that some had expected, instead God chooses people and places that others may have considered too small and insignificant. It is in these choices that God’s great power is revealed.
God’s power is similarly seen in the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth in our Gospel text. Here again God’s promise is being fulfilled through two ordinary women who are prepared to put their full trust in the God whose praises they have sung their whole lives. Mary and Elizabeth hold a special place in the story of salvation as they are identified with a group known in the Old Testament as the ‘anawim’. These are the poor and the humble, the marginalized and those easily forgotten. The Hebrew word means bowed down, lowered. These people know their need of God and so can act as channels of his love and mercy.
As Christmas draws closer, God calls us to draw deep on our courage and to allow ourselves to be used as channels of his love and mercy. God calls us to know our need of all that the Christ-child brings.
What do you most need and desire this Christmas?