A few years ago, I saw an ad on the subway for Cole Haan shoes that was a little out of the ordinary: there were no shoes, no pictures of people wearing shoes.  There was just a phrase, printed on a dark background.

It said:

“No great story starts with: ‘It was cold, so I stayed in…’”

I’m not sure what that has to do with shoes. But it obviously made an impression. The implicit message: Take risks. Brave the weather. Great things can happen when you step out of your comfort zone.

Today’s Gospel is a vivid example of that.  Mary leaves the comfort of her home in Nazareth, setting out into the rugged hills of Judah. And with that, a great heroic story begins—in fact, the greatest ever.

It’s the story of Christianity — the ongoing and ever-new story of a gift being offered to the world.

But in addition to Mary, this Gospel is also, significantly, the story of Elizabeth: the saint of patience, the saint of eternal waiting, the saint of Advent.  In Luke’s gospel, she is the first person mentioned outside of Mary to encounter Christ. Think of it: Before there were disciples and apostles, before the blind saw and the lame walked, there was Elizabeth.  She was the first to welcome Jesus, by welcoming his mother.

This Gospel should fill us with Advent joy, as we get ready to welcome Jesus ourselves — and open our arms, like Elizabeth, to a miracle.

Originally published in “The Living Gospel: Daily Devotions for Advent 2018 (Ave Maria Press)

Photo: “The Visitation” window at Saint Joseph Catholic Church (Wapakoneta, Ohio) by Nheyob /  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license 

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