This Sunday I preach a sermon titled “When Joy Takes a Leap.” My thesis is that extreme joy comes from knowing the one who made us. I will suggest that one of the by products of obedience is joy and that both Mary and Elizabeth are examples of that obedience to the Lord. I will be refering to Luke’s Gospel 1:44, “For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” (Here are a few paragraphs from my sermon this past Sunday)
…It’s a story about how, when joy takes a leap. There is a sense that if you were a woman during Mary’s time that there wasn’t much joy in finding out that you were pregnant and that the way you were blessed with a child was through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. How would that sound to those who were friends of this young Woman? What? Are you kidding? Impossible! The laughs, the jesters, the pointing fingers. Also the traditional planned marriage had to be on her mind. What’s going to happen when I share this news about my visit with the Angel Gabriel with my new husband? What will his response be and when he does the math and when I tell him that were having a baby and he realizes that it’s not ours? What about Mary’s cousin Elizabeth? One who was considered barren and of old age. She is told by the Angel Gabriel that she and her husband would conceive a child who would be a prophet, the forerunner of the Good News. We do sense from the story that there will be a few of life’s obstacles that Elizabeth will experience once she is given the news. The thought of the rumors that would travel around town only haunted her. Most knew of her barrenness and it was obvious that she was getting on in years. The text also suggests that her inability to conceive a child was possibly a scolding from God which only added to the feelings of pain and shame for which she felt and experienced. (Pause) We then hear a sigh of relief in the text; “the Lord has done this for me to take away the shame I have experienced from my people.” We also catch the conversation that takes place between Gabriel and Zechariah earlier in the text. It was completely impossible to have a child at their age. How could this be he asks himself? And of course we all are familiar with what happened when her husband decides that he’s going to doubt the plans of the God of the universe. Mary with quickness in her step comes to the village. At the time of the greeting, something happens to Elizabeth the moment she hears Mary’s voice. Something knocks Elizabeth off her feet! The Greek meaning implies that the moment she hears the voice of Mary, the baby within her womb leaped with extreme joy. Elizabeth shouts! Mary, where are you? My baby kicked with joy when he heard your voice. What is important for us to understand from the text is that from the moment Elizabeth heard Mary’s voice of greeting, it was the place for in which Elisabeth’s doubts were relieved. For it was the place for in which God affirmed the both of them as God’s chosen instruments. Elizabeth’s encounter with the spirit of God I believe was the place for which she recognized joy… For the joy of the Lord became her strength. We see this joy not only through Elizabeth’s confirmation from the Holy Spirit, but It was also the place for which the messenger of good news acknowledged the presence of the one who would save and be good news. For we hear this message of good news later as proclaimed in the gospel of Mark, John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Two women whom both could tell similar stories of the encounter they had with Gabriel. Two who could share their fears, hopes, and dreams of what was to come. Both were filled with the Holy Spirit and both were blessed with the gift of a child, to be the mother of the two most influential people in scripture. One who had a message of salvation, the other the Son of the God most high, who would be salvation and the giver of eternal life. I could only imagine what took place between those two, on the day that joy took a leap. The good news for us today is this. Joy comes from knowing Christ. I believe that what both Mary and Elizabeth model for us is a faith and an extreme sense that their trust is in the Lord alone. Their joy was a by-product of their obedience and response to God. For it is a faith that calls for allowing God to use us as God chooses. It also calls for us to believe that God can choose and use even those we ourselves would not consider to be the most qualified or the most favored persons. It is place where the Lord comes to humanity in the midst of suffering. There are some who even believe that the text is a reminder of God’s love for those who are poor and who are considered the lower class citizen by societies standards. The text is a reminder that God in the midst of chaos and doubt is one who is with us and will guide our steps as he used both Mary and Elizabeth.
On the day that joy took a leap, was the day that the gospel message would have a new flavor added to it. It was a day for which the church would take shape. It was a day that one world would pass and the other would enter. The messenger of salvation and the one who would save would both be in the same room formulating a God given message. (God) just needed two servants of the Lord to be apart of his plan for saving (God’s) people. What happens to God’s people when joy takes a leap? Lives are changed. The hungry are fed. The homeless are given shelter. The oppressed are comforted. Hearts and eyes are opened to new ways of loving God’s children. Fears are relieved. Sins are forgiven. Reconciliation happens. God’s peace reigns. When joy takes a leap in your life you certainly know it! For it is the place the spirit of God kicks and causes our eyes to be opened and to sing the praise to our God, our Redeemer, and our friend. For it’s the place where we discover the gifts of joy…the joy of being saved by grace and the joy of no longer are we silent. We are to sing aloud as Mary sang of the joy of the Lord empowering us to be his servants no matter what the circumstances are knowing that God will accomplish great things.
To God be the Glory! Amen.