39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; 40 And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth…
56 And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.
Luke 1:24; 39-40; 56 (King James Version)
Tonight’s post has been written in light of recent events. One of which is that white supremacist Dylann Root was convicted on all counts of the murder of the nine Black parishioners of Emanuel AME Church of Charleston, SC whose place of sanctuary he violated. Root is currently pending sentencing. I dedicate tonight’s post to the memory of the slain.
The other: during his Presidential campaign, Donald Trump vowed to deport any undocumented immigrants. However, this article from nj.com stated that Newark will stand behind its undocumented immigrant residents according to Mayor Ras Baraka. A similar move by mayors of other American cities, including Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia, who stated that Philly will still be a “sanctuary city”.
Our heroines from tonight’s Scripture, Elisabeth and Mary each needed sanctuary. Unlike some Christians, I don’t believe the days at Elisabeth’s were all praise and fun. Both extraordinary pregnancies turned two ordinary women into objects of curiosity and-quite possibly-shame: Elisabeth’s age and being a priest’s wife; and Mary’s unmarried status would be cause for concern around their society. In a patriarchal world that did not value the feminine, these women needed that space all the more. I believe Elisabeth and Mary were able to talk freely and express their true feelings. I also believe that Elisabeth gave Mary the wisdom needed for the days ahead. Plus, they had that privacy they wouldn’t have had if they stayed in the public eye.
Now, I’m not talking about these “safe spaces” you see cropping up in college campuses resembling overgrown nursery schools designed to mollycoddle whinny and wimpy college kids because of some supposed “threat.” What I’m talking are about legitimate spaces where people who need space to breathe, be themselves, yes, and be safe: churches, the homeless shelter, the crisis shelter, that person’s home you feel safe in-places like that. Even cities that uphold the dignity of the undocumented and provides sanctuary for them.
In a crowded world that embraces authoritarianism, we need sanctuaries. We need places where we can be free to express our humanity without danger. We need our churches to be safe-despite the Dylann Roofs of our world. We need homeless shelters to protect the homeless from the elements and mean people. We need crisis shelters for the battered, bruised and addicted among us. We need cities that will say “NO!” to draconian immigration policies. We need places of refuge, of safety, of humanity.
Advent calls us to that sanctuary that God provides. Her sanctuary protects us from the illusions of the “world”; and allows us to be human. During the first Advent, Elisabeth and Mary had their sanctuary. We of today’s Advent are called to sanctuary: a place to be safe, to be whole, to be human…
(Image: “Shelter” by Me)