Day 22

Mary didn’t waste a minute. She got up and traveled to a town in Judah in the hill country, straight to Zachariah’s house, and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leaped. She was filled with the Holy Spirit, and sang out exuberantly,

You’re so blessed among women,
and the babe in your womb, also blessed!
And why am I so blessed that
the mother of my Lord visits me?
The moment the sound of your
greeting entered my ears,
The babe in my womb
skipped like a lamb for sheer joy.
Blessed woman, who believed what God said,
believed every word would come true!

Luke 1: 39-45 (The Message)

won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

“won’t you celebrate with me” by Lucile Clifton 

Where you go, I will go, Beloved
Where you go, I will go
Where you go, I will go, Beloved
Where you go, I will go

And where you lie, I will lie, Beloved
Where you lie, I will lie
Where you lie, I will lie, Beloved
Where you lie, I will lie

And your people are my people
Your people are mine
Your people are my people
Your Divine my Divine

“From Where You Go (I Will Go)” by Shoshana Jedwab

When your world is falling apart, presence is all that matters. 

When your world is coming together magically, after much anticipation, presence is all that matters. 

The moment I realized my grandfather was dying, my world stopped in a sixth-floor hospital room. I stood there watching the person who assembled my crib transition. My hope for my Grandaddy, as I called him, was simply that he knew we were there. I wanted him to know that the God he loved and served his entire life was there. My prayer was presence. 

I wonder how much presence meant in the life of Mary. Imagine her finding out that she was carrying the Savior of the universe in her womb. What must it have been like for her to experience Joseph’s practice of presence in choosing not to bring her to shame? 

It is mundanely remarkable that this same woman traveled to her cousin Elizabeth’s soon after receiving this news. Can you see her pregnant self journeying over 100 miles from Nazareth to the hills of Judea? This offering of presence caused an unborn child to leap.

Maybe Mary knew that the good news of the coming of Jesus was presence. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in subversive table-turning Jesus. I love that Jesus. Our dying world that disposes of the dispossessed, the others and the outcast needs that Jesus. 

Still, when my world fell apart, I still wanted and needed a present, weeping, “touch my side ” Jesus. In the mountaintops of my life, I have needed this ever-present Jesus by way the “Marys” of my own life to celebrate and sing with me. And sometimes I have needed to look inward to offer myself the gift of presence. Lucile Clifton puts it this way, “come celebrate with me that everyday something has tried to kill me and has failed.”

When empire has its way it steals us from each other and ourselves. Through the person of Christ we are not solely gifted with presence. Yet, this Advent season and every day we are challenged to show up, to be present, like Joseph, Mary, and Emmanuel, God with us. 

God with us is the friend who rubbed my back at my own birthday party just a day after my grandfather had died. God with us is the sweet friends who sang to me in celebration of my life just moments before. It is the friend who has picked up my sobbing FaceTime calls and said not much more than “that’s terrible,” “I love you,” “I’m sorry you are hurting so much right now.”

Three days from now, many of us are going to celebrate, eat, and unwrap gifts. For some of us the world is falling apart and for others we are on the mountaintop. Be present for your people. Ask somebody to stay. Show up for the marginal in creative and unexpected ways. Join in the declaration of belovedness that is, “Where you go, I will go”. 

Be present. God is with you, with me, with us.

Brittany T. Paschall is an educator, minister, and organizer residing in her native city of Nashville, Tenn. Paschall is a 2017 ELLA Fellow through the Sadie Nash Leadership Project and the Founder of We Remember Nashville. Find her on the web at or @btpaschall on Instagram and Twitter.

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