This third week of Advent, let us remember joy. Joy is something that cannot be feigned. It is not artificial. It’s healing and restorative attributes cannot be matched in this world. Advent is about preparation and we are encouraged to use the themes of each week to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ. We have spoken about hope and peace. This week is about joy. All of these weeks build upon the previous. First, we must have hope for something more meaningful in life, then we must work towards a peaceful way of life, then we must allow for joy to transform our hearts and the work that we do. Mother Theresa said, “One filled with joy preaches without preaching”. How might our joy transform the lives of those around us?
This week, I have been working on our Christmas Pageant and it inspired me to dig through some old pictures, as I remembered my many years of Christmas Pageants. I remember being 3 years old and being casted as an angel, not as the all coveted role of Mary. It ended badly. I was not a joyful angel. My parents said that was the one year the church had a cranky angel. I refused to raise my arms, and I cried on stage and went to sit with my dad. I remembered with joy the years I would help the little ones with their pageant once I was too old to participate and trying to convince a little girl to put her dress back down or the year baby Jesus ran away. Particularly, this last one made me laugh out loud as I remembered running through the sanctuary trying to catch baby Jesus. Overall, I remember fondly the joy of the season. The joy that we are called to live. The joy we are called to sing a loud to all who will listen.
So, I sing my Christmas music starting before Thanksgiving because there is never enough time to sing my praises to God for the gift he has given us. There is always something to give thanks for. There is always something to find joy in. There is always something to look forward too. When we are around joyful people it seems to be contagious and you can’t help but feel their joy and adopt it as our own. Today, we too get to feel the joy of Mary. We are invited to make it our own and in so doing we too might be able to do what Meister Eckhart suggested in the 14th century when he wrote, “We are all meant to be mothers of God”. The joy of Mary just seems to invade all the quadrants of my soul reminding me that I too need to make room for Christ in my life. I too can bare the message of Christ in all that I do in this season. And so can each one of you.
Mary sang a song of joy in today’s scriptures while she stayed with her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant with John the Baptist. She sang the joy in her heart, her gratitude that the Lord had chosen her. In so doing, she gave voice to the faith experiences and needs of all people who were forgotten by the world. Mary was a woman living in a world that did not allow for the individual faith experiences of women, the uneducated, or the sick. They were very rarely portrayed in the scriptures and never focused on in religious discussions in a compassionate way. Yet this is what the focus is. This is a foreshadowing of the message of Christ to the ordinary people, to the down trodden and forgotten. Even at his birth, God showed his concern, care, and message to those who were truly in need when the angels revealed Christ’s birth to some lowly shepherds.
In the song, we see that Mary is not alone but tends to her joy, her hope, her love for her unborn child, in community with Elizabeth. Elizabeth is very much a part of this song of joy and gratitude. They both wait eagerly as they prepare themselves and their families for the coming of new life. And because we hear the song today, we too are being invited to join in their joy, to join in their hope and expectation, to join in the community of preparation.
We are invited to have joy in a God who offers to lead us towards a home, a place of refuge, a place of peace away from the dangers around us. We are being invited to allow the promise of the Christ child to show us the way into a relationship with God. We are encouraged to use the joy of the season, the joys of life, and the joys in this world to open a new pathway to the Lord. Allow for that joy to permeate your lives revealing new depths of faith and new ways to affect God’s message to a world in need.
By living into the joy of Christ each day, we are allowing God to reveal to us the new path he has laid before us. He reveals to us a new path that we walk with him hand in hand inviting others to join us on this new and exciting journey full of the promises of the Lord. When we share the joy of the season with those that we meet, we are inviting them to join together in community to journey towards renewed life. Let’s join with Mary today, as we prepare ourselves, and our communities for the love of Christ. Living into this song of joy is our challenge today. So let us join with Mary and sing out our joy together saying “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant”.
 Mother Theresa, 20th Century.
 Meister Eckhart, 14th Century.
 Luke 1:46, NRSV.
(Based on Isaiah 35: 1-10 and Luke 1: 46-55)