Sunday Message for 23 December 2018: “Joyous Leap”

Joy and salvation feed the soul this fourth Advent Sunday. Today’s message begins after Mary had been visited by an angel, who foretold Jesus’ birth. We’re zeroing-in on that part of the story when Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist. (Luke 1:39-55). Elizabeth’s unborn son responded joyfully to the divine Jesus in Mary’s womb.

Mary’s situation is notable during the Christmas season because of the messianic promise fulfilled through Jesus. Mary’s divine commission prompted her to celebrate: “ ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior . . .’ “ (Luke 1:46b). Whenever there is praise in scripture, you are invited to share it more than simply observing it. God wants each person to feel and enthusiastically respond to Jesus just as John did. Sometimes expressing such joy is difficult, especially when you encounter uncertainty and resistance. Yet God can strengthen your character as you pursue joy, even while enduring challenging circumstances.

When God unveils a promise it can seem mysterious, perhaps even overwhelming. In such situations it is tempting to withdraw into doubt and negativity. Recall that Mary’s cousin Elizabeth was pregnant in her advanced age. From a worldly perspective Elizabeth might have doubted her ability to conceive John the Baptist. But when things seem impossible God can work wonders. The good news is that staying positive and even praising God can help conquer challenges. Your challenge is to surmount barriers and celebrate even when life doesn’t go well. You are invited to be filled with hope, such that you can express enthusiasm as you focus on God’s mercy and grace. It’s no accident that people who experience God’s presence often exhibit a higher life satisfaction.

Grasp the wonder of God’s promises as you reflect on this holiday’s joys. When you recall Jesus’ birth, you can also consider how God invites you to a spiritual rebirth. The key is spiritual regeneration, the point at which your new spiritual life can begin. On the one hand, Christians celebrate the arrival of the baby Jesus in that ancient manger over two-thousand years ago. On the other hand, people of faith can continue to celebrate the wonders of God’s presence. As you embrace God’s spirit you will become a transformed child of the Almighty.

What do you have to thank God for this season? Consider the joy of your relationship with the divine, of how your faith is forging a beautiful connection with Almighty God. It doesn’t matter who you are, how young or old, or how sick or well you feel. God can partner with you to transcend whatever is holding you back. By accepting forgiveness and redemption you are rescued from an unfulfilling life. You are set free to receive and share God’s love and truth. Joy arises when you 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 it as often as you’d like. Rest-assured that it’s not too late for you to experience what God has for you. You’re not alone if doubt and apathy creep in. Rather than respond to situations with fear, ignorance and anger, God invites you to choose a path of love, truth and joy. Embracing God’s spirit will help transport you to a better place, overcoming destructive cynicism and doubt. Joy will help you jump hurdles and obstacles.

Allow God to empower your life and generate pure joy from within. Praise God for all your superb blessings. Realize that God is still working miracles in peoples’ hearts and minds (including yours!). Raise your voice in joyful proclamation. Christ is born! Hope is alive!   -–Reverend Hoxey