12/19/2021 - 4th Sunday in Advent – Luke 1:39–45
Embracing Joy and Faith: The Significance of Christmas
We have successfully navigated through the predicted doomsday scenarios, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, which were thought to bring catastrophic consequences comparable to the Black Plague. While the pandemic has caused illness and loss of life globally, it's worth noting that similar outcomes accompany annual influenza outbreaks. Thankfully, the dire predictions did not come to pass, and we owe our gratitude to God. The true challenges we face in our daily lives are the measures implemented by our leaders to combat the pandemic, resulting in job losses, disruptions in education, and an increase in psychosomatic disorders and illnesses.
A Reason for Joy
Despite the ongoing battle against COVID-19, we should rejoice that many anticipated consequences have been averted. As Christmas approaches, we are reminded of the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who brought peace as prophesied by Micah. While the world may seem uncertain, we can embrace the spirit of joy and celebrate each day. Christmas is a time to commemorate the arrival of our Savior, and if it fails to inspire us to leap for joy, we must question the essence of our celebrations. As the angels proclaimed, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:10–11).
The Marvel of a Leaping Fetus
Let's delve into the remarkable text before us. The entity that leaps for joy upon Jesus' advent is a fetus, an entity often dismissed as inconsequential tissue. However, how can mere tissue possess a mind of its own and respond to Mary's greeting with joyous movements within Elizabeth's womb? This movement is not an involuntary spasm but a testament to the Holy Spirit's presence, as affirmed by Elizabeth. Tissue cannot hear or experience emotions, but individuals can hear and react with joy, even leaping. Luke, a physician himself, accurately describes this leaping entity as a baby (brefos). Surprisingly, this unborn child, merely five months old in Elizabeth's womb, joyfully responds to the arrival of his Lord in Mary's womb.
The Call to Rejoice
So, why do mature Christians often struggle to celebrate with exuberance when the good news of Jesus' birth fails to evoke overwhelming joy amidst worldly challenges? Some individuals have contemplated forgoing Christmas celebrations due to the spread of the Covid Omicron variant or personal hardships. However, rejoicing over Jesus' birth is not merely an emotional response; it is the result of faith. Christmas transcends physical circumstances and resides within the heart.
Even this fetus celebrated Christmas with joy! This baby possessed faith—the belief that the one in Mary's womb was the Incarnate Son of God, destined to rule and save humanity from sin. Such faith is instilled through hearing the Word of Christ, as it is written, "So faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17).
This child had the opportunity to hear God's Word. His father, Zacharias, a priest, and student of the Holy Scriptures, regularly read and taught God's word. Zacharias and Elizabeth, along with their unborn child named John, heard prophecies of the coming Messiah, as depicted in the Old Testament lesson from Micah. From conception, John received the good news that God would provide a Savior who is the Christ—the Lord Himself—who would redeem all people from sin and death. Through the Word of Christ, this baby in the womb experienced new life through the Holy Spirit and believed in Jesus Christ as his Savior, receiving forgiveness for all his sins and eternal life.
Embracing True Happiness
Amidst the world's pursuit of temporary merriment and festive celebrations, true happiness lies in embracing the fulfillment of God's promises through faith. Inspired by Elizabeth, we are reminded, "Blessed (or happy) is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord."
When the angel Gabriel delivered the news to Mary that she, a virgin, would conceive a child who would be the Son of the Most High, Mary wasted no time journeying to share the good news with Elizabeth. Mary embarked on this journey because she believed the word of the Lord. Even though she couldn't yet feel the child stirring in her womb, she was firmly convinced that God's promise was already being fulfilled within her. Her trip to the hill country of Judea was filled with joy, born out of faith that God was fulfilling His promise. The joy of Christmas had already embraced her.
As it is written, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). Genuine faith always brings joy to the Lord. Mary and John both possessed such faith, and they rejoiced in the fulfillment of God's promises. Fueled by the joy of God's faithfulness, Mary visited Elizabeth, and John leaped within her womb. This joy is the beautiful fruit of faith.
The Proclamation of God's Faithfulness
The birth narrative of Jesus, which we commemorate at Christmas, is not merely a captivating story. It is a proclamation that God faithfully fulfilled His promises through the birth and crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior. This account assures us that God has provided a Savior, Christ the Lord, offering forgiveness and salvation to all people. The good news of great joy is meant for everyone—to embrace and experience true joy.
Though the world may appear cold and hostile, and circumstances may seem dire, it is within this darkness that the light of Christmas shines. The good news of the arrival of the Child of Mary, the Saving Lord, prompts both fetuses and the elderly to leap for joy! This joy and hope cannot be destroyed, taken away, or diminished. It assures us of eternal deliverance. (Romans 8:31-39) Amen!