Almost at the doorsteps of the Christmas season, the readings today draw our attention to Mary, the virgin soon to be mother of the Savior. After receiving the promise of the angel, she wastes no time to hurry down to her cousin Elizabeth’s home, there to serve and wait on her who was to give birth in her old age.

Between the volunteer servant and the dignified old lady of the house, it was the servant, Mary, who occupied the more exalted position. The gospel does not describe Elizabeth at all. But Elizabeth was not lacking in the finest words to describe her young pregnant cousin.

 “Blessed are you among women…”  “…the mother of my Lord…”  “blessed are you who believed…” – Mary is blessed because she was chosen. Mary is the mother of the Savior. Mary is the model of faith in God’s promises.

I know that non-Catholic Christians struggle with Mary and are uncomfortable when the spotlight seems to shine on her. Muslims and other great religious traditions have more openness to her. But at the coming of the Savior the world, why did God choose a peasant girl, a lowly virgin, a simple maiden from an equally insignificant village, to be the vessel of God-made-man?

I read from a recent reflection in America magazine a tradition among icon artists that like to depict Mary as the burning bush in the desert which Moses saw. Why equate Mary and the burning bush?

Moses was busy that day tending sheep. The sight of that amazing blaze forced him to stop and observe what was happening. He marvels at the unconsumed plant amidst the furious flame. As he stays before the intriguing sight, he finds God and his new mission in life.

In the Christian imagination, Mary takes the place of the burning bush. In the wilderness of the world’s sin and rejection of God, here stands someone who offers something totally different, something worthy of undivided attention and admiration. The gentle fire burning within Mary is Jesus himself, the God who wants to be noticed, heard and obeyed. As Elizabeth notices God’s graces on Mary, she discovers herself, her son John, and his future mission in the world. She stands before Mary but she discovers her God within her.

Very close to the joyful feast, let us spend time with Mary and pray that she leads us to stop, stay and notice the Lord who from within her comes to us and fills us with his presence as he filled Mary’s entire life. Amen.