Updated: Mar 15, 2022
Mary set out 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, “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.”
This is a week to travel to the hill country. During this week, many people will be travelling. No longer are we on our way to our family’s place of origin to complete a Roman census. Nevertheless, there is quite a bit of travel. Twice as many people travelled this year for Thanksgiving compared to last year. Even though there is worry over public health, most people look like they will not be stopped.
Mary also had health reasons to stay at home. She was eight or nine months pregnant. But something was telling her that she had to go with Joseph to Bethlehem. After a hiccup in their engagement when Joseph found out about the coming Child and was unsure if he was worthy to marry a bride who had been chosen by the Almighty to be the Mother of the Messiah, Joseph and Mary were now firmly set in their plan to marry. The young woman knew that she was to be with her husband.
Today, we remember an earlier trip that Mary took, this time all by herself from what we know of the Gospel story. She received the message of the angel, and then set out to prove its veracity through a trip to her cousin Elizabeth. The angel had said that this old woman would have a child. Mary wanted to see if it was true.
Mary traveled to the hill country without a Spotify playlist or Netflix. She had time and memory to reflect on the Messianic prophecies from Sacred Scripture. Perhaps she mulled over the words of the prophet Micah, as he predicted that the small town near Jerusalem, Bethlehem, would one day boast as the birthplace of the Savior. He did not predict, however, that there would be no room for him at the inn.
In this week that is so focused on travel, what are some key takeaways as we live the last days of Advent?
First of all, we are all going somewhere. We have our major destination, which is heaven. But even here on earth, we are all moving constantly. What does this say about us? We are never fully satisfied, but we want to be. We can think of the U2 song: “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” It is a beautiful song that sings about the quest we all experience in life. But there is still always room for improvement.
Secondly, the journey is the destination. This is one of my favorite phrases. We get caught up in our goals. But often, it is the processes that we undergo to achieve our goals that end up leaving their mark on us. We have to learn to love the process. This for me is part of what it means when I say that “the journey is the destination.” We have to learn to enjoy the little things, the surprises, and twists and turns in our life stories.
Thirdly and finally, Jesus is our destination. Mary went to the hill country to visit Elizabeth and the child Jesus leapt in her womb. She went to Bethlehem, and she was overjoyed to see the face of her newborn son. There may be many unknown and uncertain paths in our lives. We can be filled with confidence and trust, however, when we realize that every step is an opportunity to go to Jesus. In these final days of Advent, let us do our best to go to Jesus.
Every time you get in a car and drive someplace this week, imagine what it would be like to travel with Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. What would they speak about? What would their feelings be? You may find that this ends up being a very personal introduction to prayer.