By Annette Pacheco
Nothing captures the terror, confusion of an unmarried teenage girl’s response to an unplanned, unbelievable pregnancy so much as this running away. And where did she go? To a Judean hill country town to visit her relative Elizabeth, the only other person who could understand what she is going through, the only person who could possibly wait with her as she sorted out the troubling news that she would bear God in her womb. Like Mary, Elizabeth was pregnant with a miraculous child, and like Mary, she was all alone, having gone into seclusion for the first two trimesters of her pregnancy. So they meet, both bearing the scandalous news of their pregnancies, in isolation, in loneliness: one unconscionably old with a husband recently made mute and the other, scandalously young and engaged to a fiancé who did not even join her on this fast trip to the hillside. And there is a relief upon their meeting, like a cleansing exhale that comes when a burden lightens.Like so many before her, Mary had experienced the revelation of God in isolation, and it was disorienting and troubling. It is that disorienting revelation which sends Mary, like others before her, in search of community to make sense of her situation. Among the breaking-in of God into history are nine months of pregnancy’s wait, three months of waiting with a friend, meals to cook, dishes to clean, stories to share, neighbors to love. Where the Annunciation initially sent Mary into a flustered hurried to escape, the Magnificat roots her in place, in community and makes her to stay, to wait for the world to change, beginning with her own small, teenaged belly.
Perhaps this is the lesson we are to take away from the end of Advent: that it is only in community that we can realize the hope of the season. Only in community can the announcement that the Lord is with us be a blessing and not a curse. Only in community can we embrace the impossibility that the wait is finally over, but that it is also just beginning. Only in community can we gathering the courage to hope that while what happens next in the story of God might be anybody’s guess, something is actually happening. And that it is disturbingly good.
So perhaps, this Advent, God is not late after all.