Restoring Joy to a Joyless World

3rd Sunday of Advent (December 13, 2015)

Zephaniah 3:14-18a

Isaiah 12:2-6

Philippians 4:47

Luke 3:10-18

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to help out with the “Perryville Church Christmas Pilgrimage.” This is where we read the Nativity story from the Gospel of Luke, one section at a time at different churches in Perryville. We started at the Church of God and heard about the Annunciation. Then we went to the First Baptist church and heard of the Visitation. The next stop was our very own St. Mary’s where we heard the beautiful Scripture passage known as the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-56). This is the famous passage where Mary shouts out, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” There were a total of 7 churches that participated in the pilgrimage. I was asked to give a brief reflection at St. Mary’s on the Magnificant and I wanted to share parts of it with you today… which granted, was a little intimidating to give a reflection on Mary to a room full of protestants in light of all the misconceptions that exist on our Catholic beliefs regarding Mary. So I took a deep breath and went for it…

I LOVE this time of year. When I was a child, I loved Christmas because it meant the arrival of Santa and presents. As I’ve matured in my years, and in my faith, I love Christmas because of the arrival of a baby…. the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. There are even times now when I get so caught up in the moment… the Christmas lights, singing carols, seeing my family all together watching a Christmas movie while eating popcorn… in these moments, I can feel the love of God so intensely that I just want to shout out with joy. This is very similar to what Mary is experiencing in her famous Magnificat from Luke’s Gospel.

Remember, Mary just had the angel Gabriel tell her, a young, unmarried virgin, that she was going to conceive God’s Son in her womb. Mary had her doubts and even questioned how this could happen…but she trusted.

Then she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth who also had experienced a miraculous conception. Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah were advanced in age and thought to have been barren. But God allowed Elizabeth to become pregnant with none other than John the Baptist; the famous New Testament prophet sent to proclaim that, “One mightier than I is coming.” Even as a fetus, John the Baptist could sense that Jesus was nearby in Mary’s womb. He got so excited that he, according to Scripture, leaped in his mother’s womb… he literally jabbed his elbow into his mother’s uterus when Mary came to visit Elizabeth.

This small “leap of faith” further confirmed in Mary’s mind that God’s plan was happening. The baby that she was carrying in her womb was about to change the world. And all of that joy, all of that love that she felt is why Mary cried out, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

Now, we as Christians know that our words and actions should be “different” from the rest of the world. We are called to reflect Jesus Christ in our kind words and loving actions to everyone we encounter and repent when we mess up. But can you imagine having so much of God’s love in your heart that your very SOUL “oozed” the love of God. My SOUL proclaims the greatness of the Lord.

You see, all of the love from the Father, all of the love from the Holy Spirit and all of the love from the baby in her womb caused Mary to explode with joy at the anticipation of Christmas…the anticipation of the birth of Jesus Christ our Savior. My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.

Why then, do I bring up the Magnificant when it’s not even in today’s Scripture readings? If you watch the news or are on social media, even for just a minute or two, you’ll see that the world is losing all joy. People are depressed, angry, scared and losing hope. We as Christians, especially during this Advent season, need to restore the joy in our world. Why? Because the birth of Jesus Christ is the ultimate love story that has the ability to restore joy and life to our world.

Here’s what I mean… Just look at some of the beautiful language that is used in today’s Scripture passages: “Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion! Be glad and exult with all your heart!” “Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged.” “Cry out with joy and gladness.” “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!”

God broke into the world in the most miraculous way imaginable. God became man, through the womb of a virgin to restore hope and joy to our broken world. How appropriate because one can’t help but look at a newborn child and smile with joy.

So if you, like the crowds in today’s Gospel, are now asking, “What should we do?” I suggest that we use Mary and John the Baptist as our models and proclaim the good news with the joy that this world so desperately needs.

Allow your soul to proclaim the greatness of the Lord to all those you encounter. Allow your joy-filled spirit to rejoice in the good news of the coming of our Mighty Savior, Jesus Christ!