This is part 3 of a blog I was going to write during Advent. But don’t bother going to look for parts 1 & 2, because they never got written. As a family we did our wreath, with Ben lighting the candles and Hope reading the prayers. We’ve talked together about the meaning of each week. I’ve been following a prayer series on FaceBook and Twitter called Light for the Journey written by Christine Sine which has helped me focus. But somehow, as is so common with we humans and Americans, I got distracted.
So week three is traditionally Joy. It’s the pink candle on the wreath if you’re into that sort of thing. And in this season of Advent – waiting for the coming – how do we find Joy? It’s certainly printed on cards and pillows and candles and on signs in stores. Maybe they think if we buy enough useless stuff with JOY printed on it we’ll remember to find some joy. I doubt it.
In a world that was dark with separation and silence from God for hundreds of years, how was there any joy in the first season of waiting? Until Gabriel yelled “Hark!” to the shepherds, how was anyone experiencing any joy at all? I’m sure there are lots of answers to this, but at this time I want to think of a person that some denominations warn away from: Mary. I’m not sure there was another person on the planet experiencing joy in quite the same way as Mary. Certainly Elizabeth knew a fraction of it, as she and her baby knew who it was that was coming as Mary’s infant boy. But Mary, who knew her child was the son of God, who knew she hadn’t slept around and hadn’t dreamt this thing up. Mary who knew the angel’s announcement was not her imagination and had heard from the very mouth of Gabriel “Do not be afraid!”… surely Mary was one who was full of Joy.
Even if she was scared, even if she wondered if Joseph would leave her, even if she knew that no one in all of history had ever been a pregnant virgin, even if she was mocked and threatened, surely Mary must have known joy. After a visit from an angel, and Joseph’s visit from an angel, and Elizabeth telling her “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” surely she knew joy.
In fact, we know she did. She says to Elizabeth in what is sometimes called “the Magnificat” (in Luke 1:46ff):
“My soulÂ exalts the Lord,Â AndÂ my spirit has rejoiced inÂ God my Savior. Â ForÂ He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;Â For behold, from this time on all generations will count meÂ blessed.Â For the Mighty One has done great things for me;Â And holy is His name.Â AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATIONÂ TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM.Â He has done mighty deeds with His arm;Â He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.Â He has brought down rulers from their thrones,Â And hasÂ exalted those who were humble.Â HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS;Â And sent away the rich empty-handed.Â He has given help to Israel His servant,Â In remembrance of His mercy,Â As He spoke to our fathers,Â To Abraham and his descendants forever.”
As I read this I wonder, surely there is something core to her being, core to her faith that not just brings joy, but fills her to preaching of God’s mercy and holiness and justice and mighty greatness. As she says, “My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” (vs 47)… this is not just some feeling that comes from a good party or good friends or finding the right Christmas tree or present. In her very spirit she rejoiced in the Savior – because she knew Him already. The good news for us is that we know him too, the bad news is that leaves us no excuse to not allow our spirits to overflow with joy in God our Savior as we wait again.