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This is the 20th in a series of daily Advent reflections based on the appointed daily readings. To see the other posts in this series click on the Advent Reflections link above, or in the right-hand sidebar under categories.  Today’s reading is Luke 1:39-45. I have copied the text below – or you can click on this link to see the text on the Oremus Bible Browser which allows you to see the previous and next excerpts from Luke’s Gospel. Or any passage from the Bible.  Now Unexpected Blessings

Snorkelling surprise

Snorkelling surprise

This is Sharks Cove on the Island of Oahu, Hawaii.  We were blessed to take our second honeymoon in Hawaii after I completed my theological studies.  We took a day-trip round the island stopping at Sharks Cove, where I did a little snorkelling.  I’m not a strong swimmer so stayed quite close to shore.  I was, however, in water over my head, probably in more ways than one. It was fun swimming around the rock formations looking at tropical fish. The unexpected blessing was when a large Green Sea-turtle swam around from the other side of the rock.  I had never come this close to a sea-turtle before, and to see it in its natural environment was a real thrill.  Sea-turtles can be quite curious.  This one decided to check me out and swam right towards me.  It was wonderful.

Distant Night Heron

Distant Night Heron

Also at Sharks Cove (very few sharks actually visit), in the distance, we saw a Night Heron.  We only had a Canon SureShot camera with us.  But it had a good optical telephoto and not bad digital telephoto as well.  It was an unexpected blessing to spot this bird against the rocks, and that our little camera was able to capture the memory for us. Yuck, that sounds like a Kodak ad.

Caution Albatross Chicks Crossing

Caution Albatross Chicks Crossing

We received another unexpected blessing on the island of Kauai, at Princeville. We didn’t know that Albatross frequent that area leaving their eggs.  Once hatched the chicks are left to develop.  In this residential neighbourhood many front gardens had a hatchling.  There were signs not to disturb the chicks.  So, once again we used the little Canon from quite a distance and were able to get this slightly blurry image of the young albatross without disturbing it.

In reality our visit to the island of Kauai was much more of a blessing than we had anticipated.  It was a place and time that blessed us, and what a way to transition into our new life together as I began my new ministry.

Palapa Roofed Church. Christ Church by-the-Sea, Puerto Vallarta

Palapa Roofed Church. Christ Church By The Sea, Puerto Vallarta.  What a beautiful environment for worship.  (Photo SKS)

We have been very lucky to travel and visit some wonderful places together.  In 2010 I had a two month sabbatical which we spent in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  We had a very comfortable condo with an amazing view of the town and Bay of Banderas.  This was a great location to do my research and write.   The unexpected blessing came when we visited Christ Church By The Sea Anglican (Episcopal) Church, located near the airport.

The unexpected blessing was discovering such a welcoming community.  We were made so welcome, it was like coming home! Right from the first Sunday we felt we belonged.  Fr Jack, the Priest, and his wife Shirley are a great couple, and under their leadership the parish is doing some wonderful work among the poor of the local community.  But that’s a topic for another post.

In the nave and sanctuary

In the nave and sanctuary (Photo SKS)

Jack is so welcoming, he made me work.  In these two photos Susan captured me preparing my sermon – thanks Jack!  There is no greater blessing than community.

When have you received unexpected blessings?

Luke 1:39-45 Mary Visits Elizabeth

39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’

A few days ago the reading was about an unexpected blessing for Elizabeth. We read about the time her husband had an encounter with the Angel Gabriel.  This older couple would be blessed by the birth of a son.  A great blessing and an even greater surprise at their stage of life.

Yesterday we read about the visit of the Angel Gabriel to the teenaged woman, Mary.  She was also to be surprised by what Gabriel had to say.  She must have had mixed emotions about it being a blessing, to be with child when she had not yet had sexual relations with her fiancé Joseph.

Mary decided to visit her cousin Elizabeth who lived in a town in the hills of Judea.  This would have been a rigorous journey for Mary. We aren’t told why she decided to go, but it may have been because Gabriel had told her that Elizabeth also was expecting a child. Elizabeth was already in her sixth month. So perhaps Mary wanted to see for herself and share the joy and anxiety of her own special pregnancy.

The meeting of these two amazing women was a very joyful one.  Without being told of Mary’s pregnancy, Elizabeth knew!  Luke tells us she was filled with the Holy Spirit, and understood that this baby would be even more special than her son John.

Elizabeth then paid Mary the tribute that has been cherished over the last 2000 years.  It’s where we get the title the Blessed Virgin Mary.  You can read the tribute in the text above, it starts:  ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.’

As we continue our time of expectant waiting, let’s be aware of the many blessings we have, and be especially aware of the greatest blessing of all, the gift of Emanuel – God With Us, Amen

PS  There was an unexpected blessing for me in writing this post.  After I had finished writing it and had decided on the title, I wanted to find some applicable photographs.  At first I thought, “I don’t have any photographs of unexpected blessings”.  But I spent some time looking through our photo library and discovered many unexpected blessings. It was a privilege to share a few with you today.  It was a good exercise. RBS