In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
Contagious. Because we are currently living through a global pandemic, the word “contagious” may be more readily associated with COVID protocols than with joy. But Luke 1:39-45 is an extraordinary account of the contagiousness of the joy that is spread from Mary, mother of Jesus, to Elizabeth.
We like to think of the ordinary joy that Elizabeth would have experienced receiving family at this time. She was six months into a pregnancy that she thought would never happen at her age. Being in her second trimester, she was probably feeling pretty good physically, attending to the mundane tasks of the day, whilst inwardly marveling at the miracle that was unfolding inside her. Mary, by contrast, was just starting her pregnancy journey. She probably had morning sickness as she traveled to the hill country. But going to Judea to visit Elizabeth was Mary’s first instinct after learning that Elizabeth, so advanced in years, was also expecting a miracle baby. Such joy must be shared!
These two pregnancies, both wrought by the Holy Spirit, attracted one another like magnets. The joy rises to a crescendo as Mary enters into the house and greets Elizabeth. So intense is Elizabeth’s joy at seeing Mary that her unborn son leaps within her and she bursts out with a prophetic proclamation that Mary is the mother of her Lord. Surely this was revealed to her by the Holy Spirit, for how else could she have known that Mary was pregnant at this early stage? Elizabeth’s prophesy in turn triggers Mary to burst out in a long and beautiful song, known today as “the Magnificat.” Beginning with a greeting and ending in song, the contagious joy that was shared between these women moves them to glorify God.
In a season of Advent shadowed by the fear and uncertainty of the pandemic, let us look for opportunities to experience and spread joy. Whether by reuniting with family thanks to the vaccine, returning to worship in person, or sharing God’s love with a friend or neighbor, let us pray that our joy, perhaps ordinary, transforms us and those around us. And that it ultimately moves us to worship God in new and extraordinary ways.
Chant du Berger (Shepherd’s song) arr. Lani Smith (1827-1885)
I can only imagine the fear the Shepherd’s must have felt as they found their slumber disturbed by an Angel! And then, the words of the Angel: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” I’m certain there was much discussion after the Angels departed about what to do next. Of course, Saint Luke tells us that the Shepherds “came with haste [to Bethlehem], and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.”
Today, Yeri So provides us with a 20th century arrangement of the 19th century German Carol “Chant du Berger.” The original melody came from France (hence the title) however it was German composer Gustav Merkel that harmonized that tune into a Chorale. This quietly joyful tune truly paints a pastoral scene for me. Yeri highlights three distinct colors of our Westminster organ. She begins with the full tone found on the Great (middle keyboard). For dramatic effect, she moves to the Choir (bottom keyboard) about halfway through. Here we hear a sound that employs higher sounds. She concludes her performance with sounds from the Swell (top keyboard). The sounds are soft and sweet; serving to depict the shepherds disappearing in the distance as they journey to Bethlehem.
Fourth Sunday of Advent—the Candle of Love
The children and youth of Westminster were asked to talk about the word love. This is their response:
Dear Lord, thank you for love. Thank you for the ability to give love as well as to receive it.
Donate Food to ALIVE!
Did you know that ALIVE! (Alexandrians Involved Ecumenically) provides 30,000 pounds of food to those facing food insecurity locally? The next time you go shopping, pick up just a few of these items and drop them into the bins in the parking lot lobby (open on Sundays during worship, and business hours during the week).
It’s by a “little bit here, and a little bit there” that they can provide food by the thousands, so please join the wise men in leaving gifts at the manger by donating food to the bins in the Christ’ child’s name.
ALIVE! Food needs: