Message Supplement (for 20 December 2015)

A message of joy and salvation feed our souls this Advent Sunday. Mary had been visited by an angel who shared how God was planning to do a miracle. This represented the promise of Jesus’ birth through Mary’s humble obedience. Then came the scene for today’s message when Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist. (Luke 1:39-55). Elizabeth and her unborn son responded joyfully to Mary’s presence and the divine promise she represented.

Mary’s situation is notable during the Christmas season because of the messianic promise fulfilled through Jesus. Mary’s role in Jesus’ divine mission prompted her to celebrate her pivotal role. “ ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior . . .’ “ (Luke 1:46b). Whenever we find praise in scripture, we can adopt it as our own; simply observing other peoples’ praise isn’t enough. God wants each of us to feel and express gratitude. Yes, sometimes this is difficult when we encounter uncertainty and resistance. God can strengthen our character as we remain joyful while enduring less than perfect circumstances.

When God shares a powerful promise it can seem overwhelming. We may also feel inadequate or caught in negativity. Mary’s cousin Elizabeth was pregnant in her advanced age. Elizabeth had good reason (from a worldly perspective) to question her ability to produce a son. When things seem impossible God can work wonders. The good news is that Mary’s and Elizabeth’s praise teach a lesson: Joy elevates us above struggles. Our challenge is to overcome barriers and celebrate despite our circumstances. We are invited to feel Mary’s elation, and we can share in her enthusiasm as we focus on God’s mercy and grace. It’s no accident that people who experience God’s presence proclaim wonderful words.

It is good to pause and reflect on the wonders of our salvation. When we welcome Jesus’ birth, we can also consider how God calls us first to repentance and then to redemption. However we approach it, spiritual regeneration is center stage. On the one hand, we hail the arrival of the baby Jesus in that lowly manger over two-thousand years ago. On the other hand, we can exclaim the wonders of our salvation. Yes, we have become new creatures in Christ based on God’s fulfilled promises.

What do you have to thank God for this season? Consider the joys of spiritual health and vitality. It doesn’t matter who you are, how young or old, or how sick or well you feel. Salvation isn’t dependent upon such things. By simply accepting forgiveness and redemption you are rescued from sin’s penalty. Yau are set free to receive and share God’s love and truth. True, enduring joy arises when we are willing to cultivate an attitude of openness to God’s Spirit and all the accompanying blessings.

Joy is not always easy to generate. Perhaps you don’t feel joy as often as you need it. Rest-assured that it’s not too late for you to experience all that God has for you. You’re not alone if doubt and inattention creep in. Yet rather than respond to situations with fear, ignorance and anger, God invites us to choose a path of love and truth. Joy and praise take us to a better place than cynicism and doubt. We need not reject God’s promises just because they defy our normal expectations.

Allow God to empower your life and generate pure joy from within. Praise God for all the superb blessings that God has for you. Realize that God is still working miracles in peoples’ hearts and minds (including yours!). Raise your voice in joyful proclamation. Jesus’ birth and spiritual rebirth are at hand. Christ is born! Hope is alive!