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Wednesday
Dec202017

Advent Joy

Have you ever listened to an a cappella group sing?  It is music created using only the voices of singers; while we think we hear sounds of bells and drums, those sounds are being made…by voices.  The group works to create harmonies using their voices - each voice singing a different part, the whole sound an amazing creation of harmony.
 
We have been listening for the sounds of Advent for three weeks now and we realize that the “sound” of Advent is very often not a harmony.  We hear and sing some of the most beautiful music of the entire year during Advent.  But we sing it to call forth hope, peace, joy, love: things for which we long, in a world full of harsh notes and competing sounds.
 
Instead of soft, sweet harmonies, many times the reality of living hurts our ears: desperation competes with hope; broken relationships and conflict compete with peace; sorrow and grief compete with joy; hatred tries to drown out love.  Our lives are often full of discordant sounds that make us want to cover our ears and run away.
 
The third Sunday of Advent is the Sunday of joy. We read the words of a song attributed to Mary. It is called The Magnificat, Mary’s essay about the state of the world and her insistence that it doesn’t have to stay that way.
 
Young Mary is pregnant and she travels to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who is also expecting a child.  They greet each other and Mary sings these words: “…the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name…he has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty….”
 
Mary’s life is filled with notes of fear, desperation, and uncertainty. And still, she sings a song of liberation and freedom, of righting old wrongs, of bringing life and healing and hope into a situation—into a world—where these are not apparent.
 
That is joy.  Speaking promise into pain.  Not sugary, smiley, everything-is-just-great giddiness, but an assurance in the middle of the desperation, that this is not the final word for us. It takes naming the horror and pain and brokenness in which we find ourselves and declaring that God has already fixed it; that there is a reality for which we long already in place, and that we will choose to live into that reality.  
 
That’s joy: the insistence that God has already done what we cannot manage to do on our own, and we will celebrate that.  We sing of the God who shows up and creates life out of death. We sing with Mary, “For the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name!”
 
During Advent we listen for songs of joy, speaking of a reality in which we must, and will believe.  
And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
     whose forms are bending low,
     who toil along the climbing way
     with painful steps and slow,
     look now! for glad and golden hours
     come swiftly on the wing.
     O rest beside the weary road,
     and hear the angels sing!

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