When I was doing my CPE unit, one of the patients who was in for a couple of weeks made it her mission to teach me the Hail Mary. The first time I had stopped in her room and talked with her and finished by asking people if they wanted me to pray with them something I was only becoming comfortable with. Now I was faced with having to say a prayer I had never learned. So I told her I didn’t know it but I would pray with her while she said it. That night I looked up the prayer so when I saw her the next day we could say it together. She wasn’t content that I read it she wanted me to be able to say it from my heart. So that night I set about memorizing it.
Hail Mary, Full of Grace, The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death. Amen.
I felt a little odd saying this prayer, it just wasn’t part of my experience or tradition. Then I took a class on the Gospel of Luke and wrote a paper on Mary. I wanted to find out why Jesus would reject her when she is outside the place he is teaching. While studying all the reference to Mary I learned about Elizabeth’s Song, otherwise know as the Ave Maria or Hail Mary in Luke 1.
"Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."
The first song given to us in Luke’s gospel begins with a shout of joy. Elizabeth a woman who never expected to be having a baby has been blessed by God with a baby. This gift allows her the ability to see the divine, the holy when it appears before her. So when she opens the door to a pregnant Mary, she is able to see God at work and pours out a blessing upon Mary. She declares her blessed and her baby blessed. She then shares how her own baby leaped for joy. Elizabeth than says you are blessed Mary, not just because of this baby but because you heard what God was saying to you and believed. You are blessed because you believe.
This first song of Christmas is asking us to bless. To greet those we meet with God’s blessing. To greet those we meet with joy. To share what it means to live a blessed life. To share God’s blessing with those you meet.
So this first Sunday of Christmas, let us pray for blessings.
Bless you, O God, father of all and gentle caring mother, do not forget your children.
Bless you, O God, who has given us the great gifts of creation and scripture.
And you bless us, with love, with forgiveness, with vision.
Bless us this day so we may share our hopes to you:
Hope for those caught up in war…
Hope for those who are homeless…
Hope for those who are ill…
Hope for those struggling in relationships during this family time…
And for the deepest hope of our hearts…
God is with us and our hope is reborn. Amen.