Elizabeth (mother of John) and Mary (mother of Jesus) are kinswomen, a linkage that makes their sons cousins. The readings this month feature both cousins. It is important to see them commonly in their work of witnessing to God; it is equally crucial to see each of them at distinctive work.
In the first two Sundays we get cousin John (Luke 3:1-6, 7-18). John has a sense of demanding urgency, because the new rule of God is very close at hand. That new rule is not to be received casually; there must be intentional readiness for it. The texts may tremble us out of our narcotized consumerism into a practice of hope and obedience. Conversely, we get cousin Jesus in the last two Sundays, plus, of course, Christmas. Mary’s song is about the revolution Jesus will lead. The Christmas reading is about the “touch down” of the revolution in the region of the shepherds. And the final Sunday voices the large vocation of Jesus that he will act out in the gospel narrative.
We are summoned by both cousins. John issues a call to disciplined readiness; Jesus is an agent of deep newness. Readiness and newness are counterintuitive in a weary society like ours. We are invited to embrace that which is deeply inexplicable among us. When we do, we may be amazed like those who heard the shepherds’ testimony (Luke 2:18) and exuberant like the singing church (Colossians 3:12-16). (Walter Bruggemann, Sojourners Magazine)