When I was working, my coworkers threw me a wonderful baby shower before I left work when we had our eldest son. My love for chocolate was well known among the other staff, and my lovely coworkers surprised me one afternoon shortly before my maternity leave with a chocolate shower. Chocolate and fruit, chocolate covered almonds (yum), hot chocolate, and so much laughter with my work friends! I remember to this day the richness of the flourless chocolate cake that someone brought in, and I remember my son sharing my “joy” (okay—sharing in the sugar!) when I ate it.
Similarly, when my sister was pregnant with her first child I threw myself into the planning and hosting of a baby shower for her. The joy that you share as family and friends when you’re waiting for a child to be born is almost impossible to put into words. I love my nephew and niece as though they were my own children—and my heart literally leapt with joy when my sister told me her happy news.
I like to think that it was that kind of joy that Elisabeth and Mary shared when Mary came to visit during her pregnancy with Jesus. We hear the story in Luke 1:39–56, and I would like you to read it from the God’s Word Translation:
Soon afterward, Mary hurried to a city in the mountain region of Judah. She entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elisabeth.
When Elisabeth heard the greeting, she felt her baby kick. Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She said in a loud voice, “You are the most blessed of all women, and blessed is the child that you will have. I feel blessed that the mother of my Lord is visiting me. As soon as I heard your greeting, I felt the baby jump for joy! You are blessed for believing that the Lord would keep His promise to you.”
Mary said, “My soul praises the Lord’s greatness! My spirit finds its joy in God, my Saviour, because he has looked favourably on me, his humble servant. From now on, all people will call me blessed because the Almighty has done great things to me. His name is holy. For those who fear him, his mercy lasts throughout every generation. He displayed his mighty power. He scattered those who think too highly of themselves. He pulled strong rulers from their thrones. He honoured humble people. He fed hungry people with good food. He sent rich people away with nothing. He remembered to help his servant Israel forever. This is the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and his descendants.”
Mary stayed with Elisabeth for about three months, and then she went back home.
Elisabeth’s joy at the arrival of Mary is to be expected. Her cousin has come to visit! We all know the joy of seeing family we don’t get to see often throughout the year when they arrive at Christmastime. There’s lots of hugging and laughter and reminiscing. But Elisabeth’s reaction isn’t just your regular family get together happiness. She is having Holy Spirit filled, capital J-O-Y. She recognizes that Mary is uniquely blessed among women because of the child she is bearing! What incredible Joy to be a part of Jesus’ life in any way, especially as the woman who bore him onto the earth.
Mary stayed with Elisabeth for about three months; that much we learn from our scriptures. What happened to them during that time we can only speculate, but I imagine it was a time of hope, peace, and true joy for both Mary and her cousin. Elisabeth would have been progressing in her pregnancy, further along than Mary and they would have shared the little everyday joys that come with carrying a child. Perhaps they laughed over how fruit juice (oh, sugar) would have made their babes kick and squirm in their bellies, and perhaps they both shared the joy of being able to rest with their feet up after a long day. I am sure they both relished the joy of knowing that both of them were living, breathing examples of God’s promise-keeping. To know that nothing, truly nothing, is impossible through God! What joy!
Joy enters into our own celebration of the season and the word is often found in our Christmas carols. It is a powerful term and one that we can truly appreciate when we apply it to the coming birth of our Lord and Saviour. There is something special about the music that prepares us for Christmas. Sure, technically, Christmas Carols should wait until the December 24, but I will admit that I love that they ‘sneak’ their way into our services and onto our radios before then. One of my absolute favourites is the words set by Henry J. Dyke to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy: Joyful, Joyful.
Possibly my favourite lines comes in the third verse: “Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blest. Wellspring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest! Thou our Father, Christ our Brother, All who live in love are Thine; Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine.” (Emphasis is mine)
Such a powerful sentiment! It is in loving one another that we find the true joy of life in Christ! Advent is the season of remembering God’s promises and experiencing that capital J-O-Y.
What’s the happiest you’ve ever been? Do you think you have experienced true, capital J-O-Y in your life?
How can we share the Joy of Advent with those around us every day?
Joyful God, Thank you for your promises to us. Thank you for Mary and Elisabeth and their example of living out Holy Spirit filled, capital J-O-Y. Help us to share the Joy of your love and the gift of your son with all those we encounter this Advent Season.