Each Sunday of Advent, we’ve been lighting candles during the worship service to represent the four Advent themes: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. Last week, Steve Waldron and his wife, Beth Melillo, and their son, Ethan, lit the candle of joy and shared these reflections with the congregation:
This season is supposed to be about joy. We have so many Christmas decorations with the word “joy” on them that our son Ethan is amazed at how many of our decorations were apparently given to us by our friend Joy.
But this season does not always feel joyful. For many of us, it is marked by memories of those who were with us in previous years, or even last year, but who are no longer here with us to celebrate this year.
For others among us, the shorter days and greater darkness exacerbate mental illness.
Or we might feel that yet another year has gone by with little to show for our efforts.
As we consider the Advent theme of joy, we can remember a clod of sheep-herders who were really going nowhere in life. They didn’t get to spend the night inside the gates of the city, and they weren’t likely to be invited to anything significant.
But suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared, and the sheep-herders were filled with great fear. And to their great fear, the angel brought them good news—a Gospel of great joy: There is a Savior, the Lord is our salvation, and he is within walking distance.
The sheep-herders had been walking in darkness, carefully watching the sheep at the edges of their flocks, but the angel said that this Savior was born today. It may have still been nighttime, but those walking in darkness saw a great light.
Who are we, they likely thought, that we have been invited to this party? And why, they could have asked, is this happening in our neighborhood? But that didn’t stop them from celebrating this unexpected news.
And in a town in the hill country, a Jewish girl had gotten even more shocking news. Who am I, young Mary asked, that I am favored, that the Lord is with me, more literally than I might have wanted? How could it be that a child in her own body would bring the powerful down from their thrones and lift up the lowly?
Though she was lowly – because she was lowly – she rejoiced at this news. Like Mary, our spirits can rejoice in God our Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servants. We can rejoice in the Lord always, for the Lord is near and is with us and this is a Gospel of great joy.