By Bruce Stanley, president / CEO
And Mary said, “for the Mighty One has done great things for me and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation … he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly, he has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.” Luke 1:49-53
With the Christmas season comes the release of new feature films. One of them is the latest installment in the Terminator franchise. Linda Hamilton is back and supposedly prepared as rigorously for this one as she did the first. It took nearly a year of diet, aerobics, and weight lifting to get prepared. I was reminded, as I read of her renewed commitment to fitness, what Ellen DeGeneres had said years ago when the animated film Finding Nemo came out. Ellen is the voice for the Dory character and did a comedic bit about it on her show. A guest asked her about the movie and she went into an extended riff about how demanding it was for her – that she’d never been a strong swimmer and had to swim lap after lap to prepare, that she wasn’t good at holding her breath and had to build up to that, that she now knew what Linda Hamilton had gone through. Not all rewarding experiences demand the same amount of preparation.
If observed seriously, Advent demands difficult preparation. This third Sunday in Advent is observed as Gaudete, the Sunday we thank God for the joy that is to come. In many if not most Advent wreaths, the day’s candle stands out because it is rose colored or pink. Its very appearance brightens before its wick is kindled. Do not let the pink JOY candle deceive you. As Mary makes clear in the Magnificat, Jesus cannot enter into our lives without our honest self-examination and repentance. We have inner work to do before we get to joy.
Mary, even as she thanks and praises God, names the things that clutter our hearts and take up space where joy in Jesus should reside – pride of place or achievement, belief we have achieved on our own, reliance on material wealth, and considering ourselves better than others. This is a long and serious list that must be addressed. I expect if we are honest, this list of clutter is common within us all. We need to be Linda and not Ellen during this month. We have work to do between now and Christmas Day.
Only when hearts are truly humbled can joy enter in. So let us all commit to daily disciplines of scripture reading, prayer, and acts of kindness. Let us look to serve others and not be served ourselves.