Reflection Wed. 21st December ‘16
Song of Songs 2: 8-14
Zephaniah 3: 14-18
Luke 1: 39-45
When was the last time you literally jumped for joy? When were you so happy that you couldn’t help shouting? Has it been a long time – many years? Perhaps you haven’t jumped for joy since a childhood Christmas, when you bounced up and down on your bed, and shouted because Santa was coming. C.S. Lewis, author of the Narnia series, perfectly understood that childhood thrill of someone coming:
At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in his inside . . . Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realise that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.
All of our readings today are full of the joy of Someone – not Santa, not Aslan – who is coming, who is in fact already here. “See how he comes,” says the ancient near eastern love song of the Song of Songs, “leaping over the mountains, bounding over the hills.” “Shout for joy, daughter of Zion, Israel, shout aloud!” exclaims the prophet Zephaniah, “the Lord, the kind of Israel, is in your midst,” “he will dance with shouts of joy for you.” And then in the Gospel, when Mary visits her cousin, Elizabeth exclaims with a “loud cry,” and the six-month old still unborn John the Baptist leaps for joy in the womb.
Part of the joy in this season comes from a whole series of “aha” moments, the feeling of things fitting into place, as the ancient prophecies are fulfilled. Jewish Christians – of whom Mary is the forerunner, “daughter of Zion” and mother of the Church – understood that God was making his word come true. Gabriel had promised a distant messiah to the prophet Daniel: now he tells Mary that the time has come. The Lord had promised king David that a son of his would sit upon his throne forever. Now Mary knows that she is bearing that Son.
God accompanied the Israelites in the overshadowing cloud, in the ark housed in Solomon’s temple and subsequently lost. The new overshadowed ark is the womb of Mary. In David’s reign, the ark of the covenant was lodged in the hill country of Judea for three months. Now the whole thing happens again, nearer and yet quieter. Mary lodges with Elizabeth in the same stretch of Judean hill country, stays also Luke tells us for “about three months.” “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” exclaimed David – and he danced before the ark. “Why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” exclaims Elizabeth now – and John leaps for joy.
And what about our joy today? The word is still being fulfilled. It is a living word, that grows within us – as Mary herself conceived and bore the Word. It is there, from that deepest and invisible part of us – from the womb of our being – that God continues to be born in us. And it is from that deepest place that our joy is renewed. We are not spotless like Mary, but insofar as we too can say to God “be it done unto me according to thy word” we too will be “blessed” and “full of grace” – the life of God inside us. So let’s pray for that gift, the little “kick” of unstoppable joy.