There was a terrible shipwreck and only one man survived, cast ashore on a tiny island with nothing but the clothes on his back. For a while he hoped for rescue. But in time he knew he had to make a life there on the island. And that is what he did. He taught himself to fish and hunt, to garden and cook, and he built himself a charming little cottage overlooking the bay. He even carved a tiny flute which he played every night after supper.
One day he hiked to the top of the mountain at the center of the island to see what he could see. As he reached the top, what he saw was a tower of smoke and his little cottage going up in flames.
He ran down the mountain as fast as he could. But it was too late. The cottage was in ashes – and – his flute, his garden, his tools, his bow and arrows – everything he’d made with his own hands was gone, all gone!
He wept. He raged. He cursed God. He despaired. And finally, as night came, he collapsed on the sand and fell into a deep sleep. The next morning, he was awakened by sailors who had rowed ashore from a great ship to rescue him. “But,” he exclaimed, “how after all this time did you know I was here?” “Ah,” said the captain, “we saw the smoke from your signal fire.”
My friends, when all seems lost and we can feel our emptiness and feel our aloneness, God has a way of surprising us. If our hearts are open, God has a way of filling us in a way we’d least expect. And that’s precisely the insight that the Lord sets before us today in the Gospel of Luke. Elizabeth, a childless old woman, and Mary, a peasant girl with no prospects, come together in a tiny country village to share a secret that no one else yet knows: God had not left them empty.
As they meet, God is filling the two of them with new life that will be a joy for all their people and that remains a joy for us today. And so, they hug and kiss and cry for joy because they know that God has not forgotten his people or left them empty. And never will.
Jesus is God’s living promise never to abandon or forget us, but always to be a life giver for us. God can give us life even in the worst and emptiest of times, even when all seems lost if we let go of the inner barriers of despair, anger, and distrust. God can open the doors of a new world for us and fill our emptiness full – just as he did for Mary and Elizabeth. God can do all that if we let him.
So, my friends, let us pray with confident hearts:
Come, Lord Jesus, come now. Take away our emptiness. Fill us with your presence and make us your own! Amen.