At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:39–45 NIV)
It is not uncommon for me and my wife, Fabiola, to encounter people in our community whose lives have been marked by trials and suffering. People fleeing from violence, poverty, and political persecution shape our small Christian community in Sacramento, California. Amidst the crowd, children—sometimes accompanied by their parents and, at times, alone—alongside teenage migrant workers, find solace among others like them: the marginalized, the impoverished, the empty-handed.
And a miracle always occurs. Faces that initially wore the weight of sadness and confusion gradually light up with smiles, then laughter, and eventually, joy. We often assume that in our encounters we’ve introduced these individuals to Christ. However, the truth is reciprocal: we are not Christ to the hurting; they are Christ to us.
Mary and Elizabeth could not be more different. Elizabeth is the recipient of a miracle that has brought immense joy and worth to her and her husband. She is now the respected wife of a priest and soon-to-be mother. The most iconic of God’s interventions—that an older, barren woman is with child—has been granted to her. To Mary, on the other hand, the miracle of her pregnancy has made her a spectacle to others. She is now unmarried, pregnant, young woman whose future has been dramatically altered by God himself.
One would expect Mary to be full of joy at her encounter with Elizabeth. After all, Elizabeth is the one whose life is close to perfect! Yet, Elizabeth’s reaction is surprising. As soon as she hears Mary’s greeting, she is filled with the Holy Spirit and bursts into praise: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” How is the lesser a blessing to the greater? How could the young bring so much joy to the old? In a great reversal, Elizabeth has encountered the Christ in this young, unmarried, pregnant woman.
As we approach the advent of the Messiah, we are invited to find him in others – to have communion with him through “the least of these.” Let us remember that we are not Christ to the hurting; rather, they reveal Christ to us.
Tony Campos is the pastor of Casa De Luz in Sacramento, California. He and his wife, Fabiola, will also be leading the Saturday evening session at the 2024 Triennial.