The Gospel passage for the Fourth Sunday of Advent (Luke 1:39-45) tells us that Mary goes “with haste” to visit her kinswoman Elizabeth. Our Lady is in a hurry. The two reasons for her haste teach us that we, as Christians, should be in a hurry, too. From the message of Gabriel, Mary has learned that she is to give birth to the long-awaited Messiah. In addition, she is told that Elizabeth, who is well beyond child-bearing age, will give birth. Her joy and her desire to help impel Mary to go to Elizabeth with no waste of time. The sharing of joy and the service of others admit of no delay.
Furthermore, we learn from Mary that joy and service are not unconnected. To the one in need, Mary shares her joy, which in turn causes Elizabeth to rejoice as she learns its reason. “Blessed is she who believed that there would be* a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” Mary’s joy is not only that of a mother about to have a child. It has a much deeper wellspring, stemming from the truth of God’s fidelity to all his salvific promises. Christian service must embrace a witness to joy. By the fact of our joy we announce its source: Jesus Christ. This, in turn, generates hope and joy in those who recognize and accept the truth of the One we proclaim.
The “rush” so typical of our day at Christmas time is nothing more than frenzy, running around in malls and panicking in the kitchen, and it leaves us exhausted. This is very different from Christian haste. Like our Lady, as we come to know the truth of God’s nearness and fidelity in Jesus Christ, we want quite naturally to share that joy quickly, especially with those in need. In no one other than Jesus Christ can real hope and joy be found. Far from exhausting us, this kind of haste is exhilarating and life-giving.
Merry Christmas! May the wondrous mystery of Christ’s birth from the Virgin Mary free us from useless hurry and impel us to genuine Christian haste.