Advent Reflections 2023: Day 23

Luke 1:26-38

Over the past 12 months, through work and preaching, I’ve interacted with twenty-two different church congregations, and all of them have been worried about the same things – their congregations are aging, and they are worried their churches may not be able to grow. They are weary, and they can’t imagine where new hope can come from. But if the story of Mary, and indeed Elizabeth can tell us anything, it’s that new life can come from the most surprising of places.

We don’t know much about Elizabeth, beyond that she is a relation of Mary’s, and that no-one expected to her to have a baby in her ‘old age’. We don’t know what they were classing as old age (most likely something that would make those of us in middle age wince!) but we know she was thought to be well beyond child-bearing age. Yet despite this, the Lord chose her to bear John the Baptist. Likewise, Mary, a young woman betrothed but not yet married, also found herself with child. Two circumstances where life sprang from an unexpected source.

God promised both women that they would bear children, and so they did: a promise was kept, new life came forth (in Elizabeth’s case, from a womb long thought barren). Our God does incredible things.

If you worry for the future, please don’t despair. Remember that we follow a God who can surprise us by bring forth new things from the most impossible of places. I pray that this Christmas you will find hints of life and growth where you would least expect it, that will send shoots of green through your life, your spiritual walk, and your church. I pray that when you spot those new shoots, you don’t dismiss them, but as
Mary said: ‘May your word be fulfilled!’

Abi Parr

God of new beginnings, who bought forth life from wombs both barren and untouched, bring forth new life in our lives and churches. Let the coming of the Christ-light into the world, light our path, help us to discern ways to spread your word and your kingdom, this Christmas morning.