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Singing for Joy

December 20, 2009 Speaker: Rev. Jack Meehan Series: Lectionary

Topic: Biblical Verse: Luke 1:39–1:55

The Fourth Sunday in Advent
Luke 1:39-55

 “Singing for Joy”

Our Advent God has an interesting sense of humor. Less than a week before Christmas with a to-do list as long as your arm, God intervenes with a record-breaking snowstorm that brings our hectic and over-busy lives to a blessed stand-still. Unfortunately, the Sunday School Children’s Christmas Program had to be cancelled – too bad because the teachers and kids worked really hard on telling the story of Jesus’ birth in “Christmas Show and Tell.” The snow is, of course, beautiful – that is, until you have to get out there and shovel it. My mother and father-in-law arrived this past Tuesday from Iowa after they just dug out from sixteen inches of snow there. That’s cruel irony – leaving snow in one part of the country only to have it follow you. Lots of kids – maybe some adults also – are singing for joy because of the snow. Looks like it’s going to be a white Christmas here in Virginia.

On this Fourth – and final – Sunday in Advent, we see Mary singing for joy in the Gospel lesson. She’s singing for joy not because it’s snowing in Nazareth, but because she is going to be the mother of the Redeemer. As Mary and Elizabeth come together, there is a shared joy between them. Both are pregnant and never expected to be. Elizabeth is at an age well beyond child-bearing, and Mary is with child even though she has no husband and has not been with any man. Each has a miracle child and each is singing for joy. Mary’s song of joy is known by its Latin name, the Magnificat, from the opening words: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47).

Mary’s singing for joy at the gift she’s been given – a gift she didn’t ask for, but God graciously has given anyway. That gift is Jesus, the promised one in Micah’s prophecy who “shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord… and he shall be the one of peace” (Micah 5:4, 5a). That’s how God operates, you know: He gives gifts to us that we don’t always ask for; gifts that maybe we don’t even want. Stop and think about it: that could easily have been Mary’s response. Instead of singing for joy with the news that she will have a baby, Mary could have been singing the blues. Pregnant and unmarried, that’s challenging enough today. Imagine what it must have been like two thousand years ago. And yet Mary trusts that God who is true to his Word will accomplish his plan of salvation through the Child in her womb. And she trusts that this same God who has done all this will take care of Mary, even if she doesn’t understand what all of this means. That is what it means to walk by faith – trusting God even in the midst of things that we don’t understand. That Child of Mary will go from cradle to cross, offering his life for us all.

Will we be singing for joy at the gifts we receive on Christmas? There may be some gifts we receive that don’t quite do it for us – maybe like the pink bunny outfit that Ralphie got from his aunt in “A Christmas Story.”  But what about that gift of all gifts – the reason for the season? What about God’s gift born of Mary in Bethlehem? Snow or no snow, the gift of Jesus, who is Emmanuel, God-with-us, is cause for rejoicing. I cannot imagine what Advent and Christmas would be like without the beloved carols that sing for joy, that make our hearts glad. So alone or with others, in the shower at home or here in the sanctuary for worship, we sing for joy. Christ the Savior is coming. Amen.

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