Counting Your Blessings

Homily for 4th Sunday in Advent
December 23, 2018

Today’s Gospel story is titled The Visitation in which Elizabeth receives Mary at her home. This Gospel is part of a series of stories in Luke’s Gospel that reflect on God’s blessings.

Just before this reading is the story of The Annunciation, where Mary is visited by the Angel, Gabriel, who announces to Mary that she has found favor with God (Mary is blessed). To prove that nothing is impossible for God, Gabriel tells Mary that her cousin, Elizabeth has conceived a son in her old age (Elizabeth is blessed).

Mary humbly accepts the blessing God has bestowed on her (to conceive and bear a son, Jesus) and she takes off “in haste” to visit her cousin and to witness firsthand this blessing God has bestowed on Elizabeth.

That’s what transpires. So, what do we learn from these stories? That, like Mary, we are servants of the Lord and are recipients of God’s blessings.

And what does it mean to be “blessed”? It means to be made holy, to be consecrated, devoted to God.

Counting Your Blessings

Are you familiar with the term “earworm”? It’s when a catchy song or tune gets stuck in your brain and continually runs through your mind. (I get them all the time!). The earworm stuck in my mind this week is courtesy of the movie, “White Christmas” (one of my favorite Christmas movies). The earworm comes from the song “Count Your Blessings.”

Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney sing these words from songwriter, Irving Berlin:

When I’m worried and I can’t sleep 
I count my blessings instead of sheep
and I fall asleep counting my blessings

I thought about this song while praying over today’s readings; how Mary and Elizabeth experienced blessings in their lives, and how their faith in God helped sustain them as they accepted and lived those blessings.

We recall from The Annunciation story that Mary demonstrates great humility in consenting to be the mother of Jesus: “Let it be done to me according to your word.”

We hear from today’s story that Elizabeth is moved by the Holy Spirit and testifies that the child in Mary’s womb is the Messiah: “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Even John the Baptist gets into the celebration as we hear: “At the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.”

These final days of Advent are good opportunities to reflect on the blessings in our lives. I encourage you to:

  • Take some time to read the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel.
  • Reflect on how people in these various stories (Zechariah, Mary, Elizabeth, John the Baptist) reacted to God’s blessings.
  • Take some time to reflect on your own blessings, and how you respond to God.

The second stanza of “Counting Your Blessings” is this:

When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all 
and I fall asleep counting my blessings.

The Visitation story anticipates the kind of joy we would like to celebrate this Christmas. No matter what blessings or challenges we experience in our lives, we always have hope (hope in God, and hope all his blessings).

I found this sentence in this week’s Office of Readings. You may find it beneficial, no matter how you are experiencing this Holiday season:

Hope sustains us. “For if one hopes even though his tongue be still
he is singing always in his heart.”               

Being blessed means singing in your heart. May your hearts be full this Christmas with the beautiful music of the blessings of God.

Be at peace, and know that you are loved!

Deacon Dan