4th Sunday of Advent: The greatest gift of all. (Luke 1:39-45)

During the Christmas and New Year Season, many of us will be visiting our families and friends to share Christmas and New Year wishes and joy. After the New Year, I will be visiting my family and religious community and I am so excited about it! During these visits, we will be exchanging best wishes for the New Year and exchanging gifts, appreciation, and affection. For some people, these visits can be delightful or painful.

On this fourth Sunday of Advent, we heard the story of two pregnant women, Mary and Elizabeth. We saw Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth and spent time with her. This “visitation” of Mary is significant for many reasons. When Mary “visited” Elizabeth, what gift did she bring to her? Mary did not bring any wrapped presents, no Hallmark card, or fruitcakes, or chocolates, or any other gifts. Mary brought only an “unwrapped heart and a comforting presence.” Mary gave Elizabeth the gift of her very presence! Dear friends, this is the best and the hardest gift of all to give. It is easy to send flowers, or Christmas cards, or any other gifts; but to give the gift of ourselves, to make the time to be with somebody is the greatest gift that many people are longing for during this Christmas.

As a hospital chaplain, I feel myself gifted and blessed whenever I “visit” patients and their families at the hospital. I can feel how eagerly patients are waiting for “visits” from the doctors, hoping to hear good news. Following Mary’s example in today’s Gospel story, let us try to give our sacred presence, our time, our affirmations, encouragements, support, peace, and joy to our families, spouses, children, and friends. These are the greatest gifts because their value cannot be calculated in terms of money.

Mary’s gift of presence to Elizabeth shows us, instead of looking after our own time and convenience; we should seek to the needs of other persons. It was not convenient for Mary to travel the lonely and dangerous road from Galilee to the hill country of Judea; it was a very difficult task for Mary. As soon as Mary heard that Elizabeth was six months pregnant, Mary went immediately, stayed with Elizabeth for three months, and took care of all her needs until Elizabeth gave birth. Mary gave to Elizabeth what she needed, the gift of caring presence; that was the perfect gift.

The other thing we can notice in the Gospel is that when Mary visited Elizabeth – Mary’s presence made great joy not only for Elizabeth; but also in her womb, the infant leaped for joy. Because Mary was filled with the Holy Spirit and Mary was carrying the Baby Jesus in her womb, too. The presence of Jesus also made extra joy to Elizabeth and the child in her womb. Today our challenging question is: Does my presence make others happy or not, especially to my family members, friends, community, and wherever we are?

We are called to bring Jesus’ presence to others as Mary did. Christmas is a perfect time for us to be filled with the Holy Spirit and allow Jesus’ rebirth in our own hearts and our own families. Once Jesus is reborn in us, Jesus will enable us to share the gifts of love, peace, and joy with our brothers and sisters; this is the real spirit and the best gift for Christmas!