Beloved Members and Friends of St. Martin’s,
The Christian liturgical calendar has two seasons of preparation: Advent and Lent. In the early Church, Advent was actually longer—from St. Martin’s Day through Christmas Eve, and it was known as “Little Lent.” The lessons in both Advent and Lent are centered around self-examination and repentance. But after two weeks of apocalyptic visions, this third Sunday in Advent brings us something different: Joy.
The great systematic theologian Karl Barth noted, “Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.” It may be simple, but it is not easy without mindfulness. Let’s face it: we are not hard-wired for joy. We are hard-wired for fear, especially the fear of scarcity—and scarcity and gratitude do not coexist with each other. We have to make a conscious effort to reset our expectations in order to get to joy rather than anxiety. We have to reset our lens to look at what we have, and the way those around us enrich our lives rather than see what we don’t have, and see others as competition for scarce resources.
The readings we hear this Sunday are all about defying expectations. The vision Isaiah gives us this week shows a desert blooming, the weak being strengthened, the disabled made whole, waters gushing forth in the driest of places. It’s the same vision of healing and restoration that Jesus uses to define and describe his ministry in our gospel: “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.” And where does Jesus get the inspiration of this vision of abundance where there was need? From his own mother, whose Magnificat describes Jesus’s ministry even before his birth. Mary’s vision and Jesus’s vision align, and that’s no accident. It’s a reminder of what the gospel really means and what it tells us about living into God’s vision for us.
“God is at work in the world, healing the broken paces and inviting us to see it. Live with joy!” both Mary and Jesus urge us. Open your eyes to see the wonders of God all around you, the gifts from God poured abundantly into your life with every breath that you take! The way of faith is the way of joy and gratitude, a life we can only receive once we cast away the soul-killing “certainty” that there will never be enough. It is that certainty that keeps the world at each others’ throats— rather than living by the kingdom values this season of preparation calls us to embrace for our flourishing. It’s there already. Jesus and Mary invite us to embrace abundance, to embrace faithful living, to embrace joy.
This coming week, I invite you to dedicate some time each morning and each evening specifically cultivating a spirit of joy, a spirit of expectation, a spirit of gratitude.