I was 17 years old when I came to Minneapolis to attend the Lutheran Bible Institute. Alvar Nelson, the business manager, helped me find a part-time job at Augustana Home. It was within walking distance. My responsibility was to bathe and shave the older men during the week, and run the dishwasher after the Sunday dinner. I was paid 50 cents an hour.
What I lacked in skill I made up with speed, energy and lots of enthusiasm. Sister Alfreda was superintendent, and my ultimate boss. She was stocky and a bit gruff, but had a heart of gold. She didn't talk much to me, either good or bad, but I suspected that she liked me. When Christmas arrived, it was time to hand out the envelopes with Christmas bonuses.
Sister Alfreda handed me my envelope with the standard instructions, "Don't open it until you get back to your room." A short time later, she met me in the hallway. "Nelson, come here!" She handed me a second bonus envelope, "Don't tell anyone."
When I returned to my dorm, I opened the two envelopes. Each contained $2.50. The money was not as important as the affirmation it conveyed. I had the assurance that I had pleased the boss lady. I was an important member of the health team.
Elizabeth and Mary were about as anonymous as Sister Alfreda, but they, like my boss lady, were conduits of God's affirmation. You and I have been given the greatest gift in the history of the universe, and God worked his miracle of grace through two women named Elizabeth and Mary. Advent is an exciting time of the year. We wait, and God is full of surprises.
Thank you, Lord God, for what you have given us behind the scenes through Elizabeth, Mary and many other women in our lives. Amen!
Luke 1:39-45 (NRSV)
39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country,
40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
41 When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit
42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, "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."