I’m working on a sermon for Sunday at Avenue. It is the season of Advent, and like many Churches, we light the advent wreath as part of our worship liturgy. This Sunday is the third candle, which is the candle of joy. I will be preaching on an unexpected joy.
My text is Luke 1:39-56, where Mary has just received the news that she is pregnant with the Savior of humanity. She visits her cousin Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist. In the passage, Mary sings a hymn, call the Magnificat, and praises God for His continued work throughout history.
“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on
all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things
for me- holy is his name.” Luke 1:46-49
Mary is filled with joy that God has chosen her, that God is active in redeeming and saving the world. Mary is filled with joy that God lifts up the humble and feeds the hungry. I’m sure that Mary is also filled with joy at the prospect of being a mother.
What I feel is the unexpected joy is the joy God has as the whole scene plays out. John 3:16 is familiar in that it says, “For God so loved the world, that he sent his only Son…” I think God was filled with joy to see the redemptive plan begin to unfold to save the Ones he loves. I can imagine God smiling down on Mary and creation knowing that redemption is close at hand.
Julian of Norwhich was a 14th century mystic in England who had a series of revelations (or Showings) based of the Passion of Christ (Not the movie, the actual events). In these revelations, she gets a glimpse of Jesus’ joy. She writes,
“Then Jesus our good Lord said: “If you are satisfied, I am
satisfied. It is a joy, a bliss, an endless delight to me that ever I
suffered my Passion for you; and if I could suffer more, I should suffer
Can you imagine Jesus, on the Cross, feeling joy? Can you image the nails, the crown of thorns, and the spear, and the joy Jesus had because He loved humanity so much that He would die for them? It’s hard for me to imagine this joy based on the scene, but this is what Julian suggest- that Christ loved us so much, that He was filled with joy to die so that we might be set free from sin. And if He had to suffer more, he would.
You may be saying that this sounds more like an Easter message. Well, the joy that God had in redeeming humanity began in a humble stable. The unsurpassing love of God came to earth as a little baby. This Christmas, we can find joy by seeking out the unconditional love that God offers all of us.