What happens when God comes? Jesus is born, God has come. What happens to the world? Or to people’s lives? What’s the effect? If you have to use your imagination, that’s OK. Go ahead.
There's an ancient song from the Bible. It’s called the Magnificat. It’s a song that Jesus’ mother Mary sings after she learns that she is to give birth to a baby who will grow into the Messiah. Mary and her people believed that the Messiah would be their saviour.
Mary’s response to God coming in this way is pure joy. She sings “My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God who has saved me, for he has been mindful of his humble servant!”
Move your eyes up to the picture I’ve attached to this. I imagine this to be Mary in a dance of joy that accompanies her song. In the Christmas story, this is what happens when God comes. Confirmed later by an angel proclaiming to shepherds in the fields. “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”
I read something from Jean Vanier recently. He was Roman Catholic professor who started the L’arche communities that minister to the severely handicapped. He’s remarkable because he gave up the upscale lifestyle he was accustomed to to care for the very needy.
He wrote, in an article a few years ago, “When you ask people what it is they really want, they might say “success at work, promotion.” Others say “marriage, starting a family.” Or, “a salary increase, a holiday in the sun, a good time with friends.” But if you press them further, “Why do you want to be successful, start a family, have a good holiday”, their answer would no doubt be “because it would make me happy.”
What do you want for Christmas? I want to be happy. Well, yeah, now that you mention it, of course. All the other stuff is just a means to that end. And the Christmas story says “What happens when God comes is that there will be joy.”
Something you need to know about Mary. She’s young, maybe 14, 15 years old, when she becomes with child She has no husband. A tough place to be in, particularly in those days where woman could be stoned for lesser offenses. Hard to imagine, there was a day, in our society, not too long ago, where unmarried women who became pregnant would have to leave town and have their baby somewhere else. Give it up for adoption, then come back to town, just for the shame of it all.
Now, this is a low place that Mary is in. She confused and afraid and destitute, and doesn’t know that the future holds. And, it’s in this low place that she has an encounter with God.
Some of us can relate to being in a low place. “What am I going to do? There’s just no way out of this”.
“There’s no way this broken thing in my life can ever be fixed.”
“I just can’t see how this problem is ever going to be resolved. I am afraid”. Maybe you’re there today.
In those times, you need to know that God hasn’t forgotten about you. All through the Bible are the words I will be with you, so be strong and courageous. In the midst of your struggle, I will give you the strength to carry on.
You need to know that no matter how small and unimportant you think you are, God holds you in high esteem, because, you are a child of a king. You are made in God's imagine, which means, you are an heir to everything God is. Faith in this truth brings joy. It’ll make you want to sing along with Mary.
We do a big presentation at our church called The First Christmas Story. Six nights in a row. A mass choir, pit band, dancing, youth ensemble, the whole deal. I remember last year, the very first song the choir sang was “My soul, my soul magnifies the Lord”.
I was in the choir, and every now and again, while we were singing that song, I would glance over at the rest of the choir, singing. And there so were many of those singing faces that just looked so happy.
And, I can imagine people in the audience seeing those faces, and wondering “Why are they so happy?” It’s the classic “I’ll have what she’s having” moment.
We all can have this joy. It’s what Christmas is about. God loves you, and is with you. God comes into your darkness, and will save you from fear. It will put a song in your heart. And your soul will dance.