“…as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy… And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour…" (Luke 1: 44, 46, 47)
What is true joy and where does it come from?
When Great Grannie Rose died in August her family found she had requested in her will that no matter when she died her funeral would have five Christmas carols. Three carols were to be joyful and the service was to end with Silent Night and Away in a Manger. No one was surprised. The minister, who knew Great Grannie, caught the Spirit and agreed. The funeral began with "Angels we have heard on high". People sang the glorias tentatively at first as though they were dishonouring God to sing out of season. But soon they started to feel the Christmas spirit. Everyone remarked on how she would have loved to be at her funeral. Someone said she was there for sure, rocking with the angels. Joy to the World was her favourite. "Joy is more than a happy smile or a laugh," she would say. "Joy is the soul's natural response to God's presence no matter the challenges of the day."
Grannie Rose had read her Bible everyday. "I love to impress the ministers with my knowledge." But everyone knew she read it because what she read gave her courage and strength. Her husband had died young and she had raised her kids alone.
Was anyone surprised she had written her own eulogy? Simple and sweet. "Mary Louise Rose loved God and God loved her. Mary Louise Rose loved Jesus and his Mom and they returned the favour. She gave thanks everyday for the family God had given her. She loved her kids, grandkids and great grandkids and they loved her. Love is key. Amen."
That hot August day, with the church doors open to let in the breeze, the sweet message of Silent Night drifted out the doors and everyone received the gift of blessed enduring Joy. It was Great Grannie Rose's one last gift to her family and friends.
(Story from Rev. Sally McShane, Spiritual Care Network, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016)
Joy is the soul's natural response to God's presence no matter the challenges of the day…
There is a wealth of wisdom here. Amidst the challenges and obstacles in life, true joy is to be found at the soul level… in response to God’s presence…and in gratitude… in love. This joy, it seems, is a reflection of an inner trust and faith.
Mary and Elizabeth bear this out. In the midst of unusual and even dangerous circumstances, their meeting witnesses to God’s presence and their response is joy “in the Lord”, expressed in words of faith and trust and proclamation.
Such joy, it seems to me, is the response of a soul that is leaning into God and a heart that is open to the movement of the Holy Spirit.
Advent holds out this invitation to you and to me: Tune into this enduring Joy.