Today’s readings:
Psalms 18:1-20; 147:12-20, Isaiah 31:1-9, Revelation 21:22-22:5, Luke 1:39-48a (48b-56)

Shortly after she became pregnant, Mary hurried to the home of her older cousin Elizabeth in the Judean countryside. Elizabeth – who had recently and unexpectedly conceived a son who would be John the Baptist – was both thrilled and humbled that the mother of the Messiah would come to her. Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah was present, but silent; when he had expressed doubt to the angel who told him his wife would conceive, the Lord struck him speechless until after the child’s birth. In contrast, Mary – who had embraced her role in God’s plan – broke into a lengthy and beautiful prayer which we today call the Magnificat, or the Canticle of Mary.

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months. Imagine a home with this pair of first-time mothers, sharing their dreams for their children. Did they worry together whether their husbands could accept and support them through what was to come? Could either of them have imagined the wonder, and horror, and glory that awaited their sons? John would be born first, have a successful ministry first … and die first. Just as our celebration of Mary eclipses our celebration of Elizabeth, the life of Jesus would eclipse that of John the Baptist. Yet all were essential to God’s plan. Based on the words of the Magnificat, it seems even in these most unusual circumstances hope filled that home:

[The Lord] has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.

Does your story need a little hope right now? Like Mary and Elizabeth, do you find yourself in circumstances you couldn’t have imagined? God is at work. Maybe like Zechariah you can’t believe that, and so you can’t find the words even to pray. Or maybe like Mary you can’t help calling on a God who has promised good things. God is at work. If we can surrender to what is, and trust God for what will be – even if it’s not what we plan – we can find a way to live in hope. God is at work.

Comfort: God is at work..

Challenge: Read the entire Magnificat out loud tonight and each night through Christmas Eve.

Prayer: I love you, O LORD, my strength. Amen.

Discussion: If you had three months to visit a trusted friend or relative and discuss the future, where would you go and what would you talk about?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll  have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!

The Joy of Community


Readings: Psalms 122; 145, 2 Samuel 7:1-17, Titus 2:11-3:8a, Luke 1:39-48a (48b-56)

After the angel Gabriel told Mary she would be mother to the messiah, she visited her relative Elizabeth. Older and childless, Elizabeth was also in the middle of an unexpected pregnancy. When Mary shared her news, Elizabeth’s baby (who would grow up to be John the Baptist) leaped in her womb for Joy (Luke 1:44).

After delivering her news, Mary spoke a prayer we now call the Magnificat. This prayer is an important hymn in the Christian church, particularly among Catholics. In the Magnificat, Mary humbly praises God for the favor he has shown her, and she also praises God for keeping his promises to the nation of Israel. The joy Mary and Elizabeth feel for their own situations is inseparable from the joy they feel for their community.

Throughout the Old Testament we read about how God is invested in the fate of his people as a whole. Individuals are shown favor for the purpose of serving the good of the community, not for individual glory. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul rejoices from his prison because God is blessing the greater church. Paul does acknowledge his personal suffering, but seeing himself as part of something greater allows him to do both simultaneously.

The current culture of the United States teaches us joy is to be found in personal pursuits. When we want to encourage people to act charitably we tell them how good it will make them feel. The faith language of best-selling books focuses on personal salvation and the prosperity gospel. We trade accountability for independence and talk about rights as though they are divorced from responsibilities. We don’t leap for joy if the salvation of the community depletes our wallets or makes demands of us. Mary’s sacrificial  joy  is revolutionary even today.

As our faith grows deeper, our concerns grow broader. If our joy relies only on personal satisfaction, it will be fleeting. We have access to so much more joy when we understand we are part of a community. When the Lord “fill[s] the hungry with good things,” (Luke 39:53) we are filled also.

Comfort: Our joy need not be limited by our personal circumstances.

Challenge: Read the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) aloud. Read it again with a friend – or better yet, a group.

Prayer: Thank you, oh Great God, for the community of your church. Deliver us from evils within and without. Mold us into an vessel of your love. Amen.

Discussion: Do you feel like part of a larger community? What is that community based on?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!