21 December – The meeting place

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’
(Luke 1.39-45​)

Waiting at an arrival point is fascinating. Whether it’s an airport or a railway station or anywhere where a rendezvous has been arranged, it is just wonderful to watch people arrive and meet. At St Pancras Station in London it is celebrated in that monumental statue of the couple kissing. She is swept up into his arms with the sheer delight at meeting. And as you watch you notice the moment of recognition, the flash of joy, the beaming smiles, the tears of joy that all go before the embrace. However long they have been apart, now they are together and even the onlooker is moved with joy.

Meeting

Meeting

The traditional site of the visitation of Mary and Elizabeth is just outside of modern Jerusalem in the hill country. Leaving the city you descend through wooded hills into a valley where the village of Ein Karem is located. It is here that Elizabeth and Zechariah lived – just near enough for him to walk to the Temple to fulfil his duties but far enough out, in this temperate valley, to provide a good home for this aged couple.

Mary was, of course, living in Nazareth but she decides to make the journey from Galilee to Judea to see her kinswoman. As part of the message that she received from Gabriel about her own pregnancy, her miraculous pregnancy, she was told that her kinswoman Elizabeth, beyond the usual age of childbearing, was herself pregnant. Miracles were abounding and Mary, needing support goes to the only other person who might understand a little of what she is going through.

It could not have been an easy journey for her to make but she did it and she arrived. When the two women saw each other their tears and their laughter, their joy must have been unbounded.

Mercy and peace have met together
Righteousness and peace have kissed each other

writes the psalmist in Psalm 85.10.

But there is another meeting taking place, for the joy of the mothers is paralleled by the joy of the babies in their mothers’ wombs. The women embrace and the unborn children leap for joy and the mothers felt their joy deep within them. It must have been heart stopping.

John would many years later point to Jesus as he was baptising by the Jordan. Jesus came to him in the crowds to be baptised and John, pointing, says ‘Here is the Lamb of God’. John points to Jesus, identifies him, recognises and focuses our attention on the one for whom he and we are waiting.

The Da Vinci cartoon

The Da Vinci cartoon

In Da Vinci’s cartoon of the Virgin and St John in the National Gallery in London, John is looking at Jesus with great intensity. His attention directs ours. He spent his life pointing to Jesus. And it is the vocation of every Christian, to look for Christ and to point away from self, to the one who comes to save us, the one from whom we are Bethlehem bound.

Lord, may my life be a pointer to Jesus,
may my heart be filled with joy
at every meeting with you.
Amen.

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