Joyful and Triumphant | Advent Week Three
'Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him.'”
Of all the Advent themes, joy is perhaps the most synonymous with Christmas. This jolliest of seasons seems to well up within us and admiring all the lights and glistening wonder we cannot help but feel delighted. Countless carols and hymns invoke this feeling, singing of “tidings of comfort and joy”, declaring “joy to the world”, and urging us to “rejoice”. Here, in anticipation of the very first Christmas, Mary is moved to sing a similar song. Her joy comes in response to fully submitting to God’s purposes and plans for her, and by her willingness and obedience, she begins to recognize all the blessings God has in store.
Joy comes from seeing the light break through the darkness, from catching a glimpse of Shalom transforming the sorrow of this world. As we live out our faith, hope is our posture, peace our promise, and joy our response. Mary finds herself welcomed into God’s vision of hope, an essential part of God’s plan for peace. Likewise, we are all invited to embrace joy, celebrating the beauty and goodness that our Creator intends and enacts for all the earth. “For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me.”
While Mary’s inclusion in God’s plan is certainly a blessing, it does not come without hardships. Though glory and redemption await her, in the present, Mary’s role in God's work will not be easy. It will involve ridicule and gossip, pangs of childbirth, and leaving her homeland behind to seek asylum for her child. In this light, and in light of our own struggles and suffering, we might be tempted to view joy as a saccharine or childish response. Perhaps we hear Mary’s song as ironic.
But throughout the Bible, we see the people of God choose to rejoice even in their darkest hour. Holding on to joy enables us to endure the pains and difficulties of our world. Joy can (and should) exist side by side with grief, frustration, and confusion. Our present realities may be daunting, but we rejoice in the comfort that we do not face these challenges alone. We can look to our communities for encouragement and support. We can rely upon the grace and goodness of our God.
Joy is so much more than a warm fuzzy feeling—more than circumstantial happiness. It is an abiding inner gladness the persists no matter our circumstances. To abandon joy, to give ourselves over to despair and cynicism, is to declare the victory of darkness and chaos as inevitable. Yet we know this is not so. Emmanuel comes. Christ is with us and we know the light will overcome the darkness.
To rejoice in our current culture can feel radical, and in a way, it is. When we embrace joy, in the face of defeat, loss, or unsurety, we allow ourselves to be shaped by the wonders God is doing. We live out God’s Shalom on this side of heaven.
As we walk through Advent, we joyfully anticipate the good news that arrives on Christmas. Jesus is coming and nothing will ever be the same. God is renewing and restoring everything. May all of creation rejoice in God our savior. Amen.
Words: Emma Tweitmann
Photography: Ira Ostafiichuk, Teigan Rodger