I go to the YMCA to exercise and for anyone who has been there you know that once you enter the building and head down the main hall there is a lounge area on the left and on a table in this room there is always a puzzle being worked on. I have begun the practice of spending three to five minutes at this puzzle after I exercise and before I leave. My goal is to try to get at least one piece of the puzzle in place. (The last time I was there I got three pieces in … I was quite proud of myself!) I could easily spend hours at this table because I like puzzles but I am learning that there is something good about limiting myself to just one or a few pieces at a time and also seeing how the puzzle comes together as other people also work on it.
If you look at the Scripture readings over these weeks of Advent it is like God putting the pieces of the puzzle together right in front of our eyes – the hopes of Israel, the promise of the prophets, Gabriel appears to Zechariah to announce that he and Elizabeth will have a son, Zechariah doubts and is left mute till the birth of John, Gabriel appears to Mary, Mary believes and she conceives by the Holy Spirit, the angel appears to Joseph in a dream to assuage all of his fears and uncertainties, wise men from the East begin their trek towards Bethlehem. John the Baptist appears on the scene. Piece by piece the puzzle is put together.
But it is one piece at a time. If you look at the passage where Gabriel appears to Zechariah in the temple, the angel announces that Zechariah and Elizabeth will have a son in their old age and that the son will help turn Israel back to God. Gabriel sort of hints at the coming of a Messiah but he does not say it out right. The angel gives Zechariah one piece of the puzzle. That is enough. Gabriel appears to Mary and announces that she will bear a child who will be the son of the Most High and who will reign forever but he does not say how our Lord will accomplish this and how everything will play out. He gives one piece of the puzzle. That is enough. An angel appears to Joseph in a dream to tell him not to fear to take Mary as his wife, that the child is of God and will save the people from their sins. Again, nothing about how this will be accomplished, just one piece of the puzzle. It is enough.
In today’s gospel with Mary visiting Elizabeth we see Luke doing something he likes to do throughout his writings – he brings two people together who each have had an experience of God, who each have a piece of the puzzle. The two come together, they each share their story – their piece – and by so doing, they are brought to a greater understanding and awareness. And in this particular encounter there is an even deeper encounter – the infant in Elizabeth’s womb who will be the great prophet leaps in the presence of the Word made flesh in the womb of Mary and shares his prophetic spirit with his mother who then proclaims, “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?”
So often in regards to faith and in regards to live in general we want no loose ends, we want to have it all figured out but this is like trying to grab a sip of water from a fire hose! It doesn’t work that way. One lesson of Advent, one lesson learned from the people of the Advent story – welcome the one piece of the puzzle that God has given us in this moment of our journey and be content with that. Sit with it, appreciate it, wonder over it, learn the lesson it offers, share it and the truth it offers with others and together learn to trust in our own hearts and with one another that God is at work bringing it all together in his way.
One piece of the puzzle. It is enough.