When was the last time someone was so overjoyed to see you, so brimming with love and affection, that they ran to greet you? A dog will do that for you – ten, twenty, thirty times a day.
When I think of people being happy to see you, two things stand out in my mind. First, is my friend Sophie. I’ve had the pleasure of taking communion to Sophie on Mondays for many years now. Sophie is in her late eighties and doesn’t get out much, and lives about twenty miles from our parish. Sophie is Polish, which is important to know, because of the following.
Whenever I arrive on Monday mornings, Sophie is always standing there to greet me. She lifts both arms out to embrace me and says, “Oh…my So-ni-a is here!” (Use your best Polish accent here to get the full effect.) It’s a wonderful greeting, so full of love and joy. It absolutely makes my day!
The other thing I think of is when we get to visit or get a visit from our son, Derek, and his family. On our visit to their home in Colorado, in November, the boys were in the yard when we drove up. David and Jackson ran, threw their arms around us, yelling out our names with joy. “Granny Kaye!” “Pa!”
Could you feel any more special than that?
Mary set out in those days and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Luke 1:39-45
In today’s gospel reading, Mary, having been told by the angel, Gabriel, of Elizabeth being with child, sets off to visit her. What’s interesting is the choice of words: Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting…the infant leaped in her womb. Elizabeth was aware of Mary’s presence, but the infant in her womb, John, was aware of Jesus’ presence, in Mary’s womb. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit, and then she recognizes the presence of her Lord in the form of a child in Mary’s womb. What a wonderful meeting…you can feel the joy in each of them as they greeted each other.
At a recent luncheon for the deacon candidate wives, we discussed the above scripture, and the following questions were given.
- Who has welcomed you with great joy, like Elizabeth to Mary? Is there a particular time that stands out?
- On the flip side, when have you acted as “Elizabeth” in greeting someone?
- Where do you find joy? How do you share it with others?
The other thing I think of is the story of the Prodigal Son, from Luke 15. The younger son asks his father for his share of the his inheritance, leaves home and squanders it, and then returns to see if his father will take him back as a hired hand. Verse 20 reads…So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.
What a beautiful scene. The father is watching, waiting for the day his son will return to him. And when he does, the father is so overjoyed that he runs to his son and embraces him. Isn’t our God’s mercy and compassion amazing?!
As we draw nearer to the birth of our savior, let us prepare our hearts to greet him and those we meet in his name, with the joy of Elizabeth…with the joy of Sophie…with the joy of the Father.
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy and with my song, I praise him. -Psalm 28:16