Reflection 121320 (Advent 3: Joy) December 13, 2020
Luke 1:47-55/ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
Joy That Comes from Peace and Justice
Since I left the Methodist Church and joined the United Church of Canada over the LGBTQ issue, I wanted my first wedding to be a same sex wedding. That dream came true when my dear friends Mike and Raphael decided to get married and asked me to perform the ceremony. Some of their friends and they travelled all the way to Kimberley BC to get married at my church. This event was full of emotions for all three of us for many different reasons, but for me, besides seeing my best friends get married and the fact that I was presiding over the ceremony, I shed the tears of joy that come from a feeling of liberation. We tend to take marriage for granted, but we should remember that not everyone is allowed to get married all over the world. Mike came from a country that oppresses and marginalizes LGBTQ people; he gave up his secure career as a pediatrician for the right to love and marry whom he wants. I left my beloved mother church because I was frustrated at how my church treats the LGBTQ people. Marrying my two best friends gave me the kind of profound joy that cannot be comparable to any other mundane things that give me joy. This joy is deep and great because it is based on restoring justice.
Today is the third Sunday in Advent, and the theme is joy. I invite you to start today’s reflection by reminiscing on the joyful moments in your lives; the people and events that gave you joy. Then read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24, where Paul exhorts the Thessalonian Christians to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances.” If we prayerfully live and are in communion with the Holy Spirit, we can appreciate everything and give thanks. And if we can give thanks for everything, our lives will be filled with joy. This is the logic of Christian joy, which is well expressed in the Christian cliché, “Count your blessings.” But since the Christian gospel is a social gospel, our personal happiness is not enough for God’s children. The joy of God’s kingdom is above and beyond personal joy and peace. Let us turn our attention to Luke 1:47-55.
This poem/ song is known as the Magnificat; it is the song of Mary, mother of Jesus. After she hears from the angel that she will give birth to the Son of the Most High, she visits her cousin Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist. The two women rejoice together, and Mary bursts out in this song of praise. In verse 47, she confesses that her soul rejoices in God her saviour, but the reason why her soul rejoices can surprise us. It is not only because God has shown her favour, but because of what her motherhood entails for the bigger society. By choosing a young girl from a poor family to be the mother of God’s Chosen One, God is sending out the message of social justice, which is the principle of God’s kingdom. The powerful will be brought down from their thrones. The proud will be scattered. God will lift up the lowly and fill the hungry with good things. The interesting thing about these verses is that they are not written in the future tense as I just listed them. She lists them as if they have already come true, just like when you receive an order or request and answer, “consider it done.” “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…”
The joy of God’s kingdom is greater than the individual joy. Just like we cannot know true peace until all God’s children know peace that comes from justice, we cannot know true joy until all God’s children have peace and justice. God’s children learn compassion that doesn’t allow them to sleep soundly at night knowing that there are suffering people out there. Compassionate children of God cannot be fully joyful and peaceful because of the injustice and suffering of the world. They care about the suffering of the world.
During the Season of Advent, we wait. We wait for Christmas, the birth of the One who teaches us how to be God’s people, the One through whom we get closer to God (“salvation through Jesus Christ”, in the traditional Church language). However, we are not waiting for the first Christmas since Jesus lived about 2000 years ago. Then what is this Advent waiting about for us today? This is a preparation period to remind ourselves what the birth and life of Jesus meant. This is a time to reflect on the reign of God that Jesus taught and for which he lived and died. This is a time to renew our commitment as disciples and vow to continue his ministry of spreading compassion and justice. Let us dream of the day when all God’s people will know justice and peace. Let us help the needy any way we can. Let us speak out against injustice any time we can. During this season of waiting, let us dream of and work towards God’s kingdom on earth. This is how we wait for Jesus. And let us find joy and blessing in being God’s people who follow Jesus’ theology and lifestyle of humility and service.
Prayer of Advent Joy
God, whose name is joy, help us to be filled with the joy that belongs to your reign. Amen.