Friday, December 16, 2011

A Quiet Joy: Waiting with Mary

About the author: Peter Stevens is a seminary student and adjunct teacher at at Lincoln Christian University where he's finishing his Masters in Christian Education. He interns in the Community Group ministry at Jefferson Street Christian Church. He blogs about books and life at his blog Life, the Universe and Everything.

When I hear the word joy, I don’t always think of quiet. Rejoicing does not bring to mind pictures of serene settings or quiet nights by the fire. I think of the excitement of making the grade, the winning team rushing the field, or friends singing a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday. Joy around the Christmas season is no exception: there are carolers, flashing lights, TV specials, children ecstatic about gifts, commercials, etc. On the surface, a person could easily get the idea that joy in the season of Advent comes through shopping, exchanging gifts, parties, music, and a little bit of eggnog. The Advent season has been packed so full of celebrating the joy of Christmas, that the quiet joy of Advent doesn't get to see the light of day. There is no time for reflection, quiet, or rest. By the time Christmas actually roles around, the introverts like me are hoping to be snowed in for twelve days just to recuperate.

The joy found in Advent is different the joy of Christmas. Advent is a time of anticipation. It builds over time until it finally is able to come to fruition on Christmas morning. As the youngest of four and the uncle of 14 nieces and nephews, I know what it is like to have a house full of family during the holiday season. It is a wonderful time with a lot of eating and celebrating, but my wife and I typically spend the majority of Advent waiting to see them because we live far away from most of our family. Each Advent season is filled with the anticipation of the time when we get to go a celebrate Christmas with our family. We spend the season reflecting on the memories of the past Christmases and anticipating the joy of the upcoming celebration with family. Gifts are bought and made with the anticipation of what kind of joy they will bring.

It reminds me of Mary's joy that Luke describes in his Gospel. When she saw her little baby boy being worshiped and honored by shepherds, she treasured it in her heart. I’m sure that this memory also reminded Mary of what Gabriel said when he appeared to her. He told her that her son would sit the throne of David and that his kingdom would never end. Even though Mary did not know exactly what this entailed, I think we can assume these memories were a joy to her in the quiet moments when she thought about her son and waited for the fulfilling of Gabriel’s prophecy. In this time of Advent, I think that we ought to take the posture of Mary.

The quiet joy of advent anticipates that time when we will be in the presence of our King. It reminds us of the time when we will see the prophecy of revelation come to pass with our own eyes. For now we spend time in the spiritual presence of God. Even though we are not able to be in the physical presence of God like we can be in the presence of our family, we still live in the presence in his spirit. Like Mary, we have opportunity to fill our hearts with moments spent with God as we too wait for the final revealing of the same kingdom promised by Gabriel. These will become a storehouse of Joy that will one day overflow into joyful celebration at the return of our savior knowing that Advent is finally over.