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Advent Joy: Giving Joy

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One of my favorite parts of this season is that it brings with it visits from friends and family whom I haven’t seen in a while.

Those meetings are always filled with that first moment when you see each other again.

In our family, at least, those moments are always loud and boisterous as we embrace and greet one another. They are also always filled with the joy of being together again.

Our family is not the only family to have this experience over the holidays. In fact, in the Gospel of Luke, we hear the story of Mary greeting her cousin, Elizabeth, who is also expecting a baby.

The gospel writer tells us in Luke 1:41-42, “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the child you will bear.”

Their greeting and Elizabeth’s acclamation are filled with the joy that being together and celebrating brings.

But there is something else happening in this greeting. The hope of something miraculous not only with Mary’s baby, but also with Elizabeth’s.

Both women understand that the Divine is at work in the promise of the new life that they bear.

I’ve often wondered about Elizabeth. There is no hint of disappointment in her voice as she greets Mary, even though she is carrying the one to go before the Messiah and Mary is carrying the Messiah.

There is no competition. There is no shame or guilt in their greeting. Instead, Elizabeth just gives Mary pure joy in the invitation she has received to participate in God’s work here on earth.

In her greeting and in her giving joy, perhaps there is a lesson from Elizabeth to us this season.

Perhaps when we concentrate our focus on giving the gift of joy, fully allowing ourselves to participate in the celebration of what God is doing in other people’s lives, we find joy ourselves.

In a culture that thrives on creating in us a desire to want what others have, and to want more and more, this is no small lesson.

It requires us to silence the voices of the advertisements and marketing campaigns.

It asks us to look deep within ourselves for contentment so that we can fully give joy to others and celebrate the journey God has called them to do.

If we are able to truly give joy, there will surely be leaping, loud greeting and joyous exclamations as we marvel at the work God is doing among us.

Editor’s note: This article is part of an Advent 2018 series focused on the traditional themes of hope, peace, joy and love. Reflections on love will appear next week. The previous articles in the series are:

Advent Hope: When All Appears Bleak, God’s Grace Abounds by Guy Sayles

The Preacher’s “Peace” at Advent by Bill Tillman

Advent Joy: Finding Joy by Merianna Harrelson

Merianna Harrelson

Merianna Harrelson is pastor of Garden of Grace United Church of Christ in Columbia, South Carolina, editor-in-chief of Harrelson Press Publishing, and an EthicsDaily.com / Baptist Center for Ethics board member.