The Sunday Sermon: Third Sunday of Advent – December 15, 2019
Scripture: Luke 1:46-55
The Sounds of Christmas: Joy
Today is the third Sunday in Advent. We are still waiting…with great anticipation for the coming of Christ on Christmas day. The excitement is building. We’re not sure what will happen, but as the days progress, we are certain that it will be wonderful and worth the wait.
Advent. The Christmas season. It has meant so many things to me over the years, changing as I have aged and my understanding has grown. Circumstances have also changed how I view this season because twenty two years ago, I was carrying my own child through the Advent season. My son, Vincent, was due on Christmas day.
When I was asked, “what is the sound of joy?” for me during Advent, my immediate first thought was ‘the sound of my baby’s heartbeat’.
Doctors love checking and rechecking growth, so with each ultrasound, I got to hear his heartbeat and my heart would leap with joy.
You see, I honestly didn’t know I could carry a child because of my familial history, so each heartbeat was a gift in itself, amazing. I am so thankful for him.
Now I ask of you, what for you, is the sound of joy?
Is it a ringing church bell? Or a child’s giggle?
Perhaps it’s birds singing at your window?
Or your Mom or Dad telling you “I love you”?
Maybe it’s the sound of your spouse snoring, a little, after falling asleep on the
couch while resting after a full day of work?
What IS your sound of joy?
Please pray with me…
God of hope,
God of peace,
God of joy,
you are our salvation;
we trust in you and are not afraid.
Lead us to draw water with rejoicing
from the springs of salvation.
God of promise, God of joy,
into our darkness come.
Today we learn about Mary. A virgin engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, from the house of David. She was just an ordinary girl, from a small town in Galilee named Nazareth. As a person, she was a devout follower of God and she believed in God’s power and ability to perform miracles. Unbeknownst to her, but important to the story, her cousin Elizabeth, was at this time keeping her own miracle to herself. She was once considered to be barren and unable to have children, but Elizabeth was in the process of becoming mother of John the Baptist. It was in Elizabeth’s sixth month of being with child that Mary found out her own good news.
Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel who was sent by God to inform her that she has found favor with God. “The Lord is with you! (She was puzzled.)
The greeting made no sense to her, she was confused. Gabriel went on to enlighten her that she was not to be afraid for (as he said before) she had found favor with God. And now, she would conceive in her womb by way of the Holy Spirit and while remaining a virgin, she will bear a son, and will name him Jesus. He will be great, he will be holy, and will be called the Son of God the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. And now, your cousin Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God. Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda, to visit her cousin.
Now that story comes directly from Luke and I felt it was important to remind you of the situation before going on to today’s scripture. I now ask of you to listen for the sound of joy …as we Listen for the Word of God. (Read Luke 1:46-55.) The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Mary’s present state, filled with the blessing of the Holy Spirit, caused baby John to leap with joy inside of Elizabeth’s womb upon being in her presence. A movement so profound that Elizabeth took on that same joy, the joy of the Holy Spirit.
That’s amazing. I wanted to understand that better, so I examined the passages in the Biblical Greek and discovered something that reshaped how I view this scripture and I wanted to share it with you. It is stated just beforehand that Mary “arose in those days”, before traveling to see Elizabeth, but in the Biblical Greek, the word ‘arose’ comes from the root word ‘anastasis’ which can also be translated as ‘resurrection’. It could be translated that Mary went through her own resurrection while becoming the vessel for Jesus and his human mother. Resurrection…a word that we associate with a profound transformation of… body… and spirit.
Mary surely had been transformed. She had been chosen to carry God’s child, God in human form, coming to save us all, after centuries of communal prayer. Her song of praise, her ode to joy, comes from a place of sheer bliss. She had been chosen as the vessel, an ordinary woman — not a judge, not a member of royalty, no one of any consequence, but an unassuming, pious woman with unwavering faith in God.
I also wonder because God could have chosen anyone that Mary was also chosen because of her qualities as a person, to carry into this world, the Savior of us all. How many people would have picked up and traveled from Galilee to Juda by herself while with child?
I haven’t found documented anywhere in the Bible that Mary did housework, I’m sure she did, but the writings included in the Bible express different qualities about her. I read about strength in adversity, a willingness to stand up against those who may not like her (like for being pregnant and unwed). I see a commitment to family, a sense of duty, stamina, and deep love. She was handpicked and if you’ll remember, Joseph was also handpicked to be her husband. God had arranged for the human parents of Jesus and I’m thinking that God wanted Jesus to be protected and have these qualities instilled in him, as he grew into manhood, because these qualities would also serve him well, …but I think we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves.
Right now, we just found out that Jesus is on the way! Through Mary’s faith in God, she was chosen and our savior will be born on earth. We imagine that Mary’s faith in God was beyond our measure, but I say to you that it is God’s faith in Mary that is beyond measure. …….GOD’S FAITH IN MARY WAS BEYOND MEASURE.
God has this kind of faith in us, too. We are the true believers, the followers of Christ, the ordinary people who get to remind the world throughout the year and especially at Advent the blessings of Jesus. It doesn’t matter if we have to use a cane to get around from time to time, or that we don’t do things as fast as our neighbor, that we’re not old enough to drive, or that we’re no longer able to drive. God KNOWS and SEES each of us and God BELIEVES in US.
We have a lot to prepare for, to make ready to receive the Lord Jesus Christ. It is in this time of Advent that we swell with anticipation and joy of what it means to have Jesus born. We must spread the word to make the world ready. We must open our hearts and minds to what is to come and create the sounds of joy for all to hear.
Rejoice, I say! Rejoice! Amen.
Violet Sears, Student Minister / Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church
December 15, 2019