Joy of the beginning
Prayer from Anglican Book of Common Prayer
O Lord Jesus Christ, you sent your messengers, the prophets, to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation. Grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries may likewise make ready your way by turning the hearts of the disobedient toward the wisdom of the just, that at your second coming to judge the world, we may be found a people acceptable in your sight. With the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, now and forever, Amen.
The prophets clearly spoke about the signs of Messiah’s Incarnation, including that a virgin from the lineage of David would conceive a son and call him Emmanuel. Seven hundred years later, the angel Gabriel visited those who would play key roles in how God would become man and make joy possible.
Gabriel first appeared to Zechariah. Of the three visitations in the first chapters of Matthew and Luke, Zechariah should have been the least surprised by his celestial visitor, yet he was rendered speechless, literally. Zechariah had been a priest for decades and was at the altar, probably the most religious place he could be. He knew the scriptures, but when saw the angel, he didn’t immediately rejoice that the prophecies were about to be fulfilled. Instead, he was troubled and questioned Gabriel’s words.
Six months after visiting Zechariah, Gabriel returned, this time to visit a poor girl in an unimportant town. She knew the words of the prophets as well as other girls. She was young and she had no lofty religious responsibilities. She was troubled when the angel appeared, but her question, “How can this be?” was not disbelief, but a question of clarification. Her faith prompted her to trust the work of the Lord. Mary did not dwell on the possibilities of future distress; she focused on the unchanging character of God.
The third angelic vision wasn’t in a temple or in broad daylight, but as Joseph slept. Joseph, betrothed to Mary, abided by the Law. Struggling over how to respond to Mary’s pregnancy, the angel entered his dreams, telling Joseph that Mary was indeed carrying the promised Messiah. Joseph had been chosen to teach the child the ways of the Lord. Joseph obeyed, without question, by marrying Mary, keeping her pure so that Jesus would be born uncorrupted by human flesh, and naming the baby, Jesus, just as the angel in the dream had instructed.
Three individual angelic visits. Three different responses. And ultimately, three reasons for joy. Zechariah’s penance was nine months of silence, but as soon as he wrote, “His name is John,” he spoke words resonating with the prophecies, the promises, and the mercy of God. Mary’s Magnificat expresses joy in a way that sets the standard for how we should respond to God’s working in our lives, even when we don’t fully understand his ways. Joseph understood complete joy when Mary delivered the son promised by the angel. Zechariah, Mary, and Joseph could not have imagined being center stage at the Incarnation. They could not have understood how God would use an infant to bring salvation. They trusted with confident expectation that God’s perfect will would be done, and so they rejoiced.
- Seek God’s favor.
- Rejoice that the prophets of old spoke truth.
- Let the joy of Christ’s first coming be the song of your heart.
Read Luke 1:39-56
- How does Elizabeth’s joy fit with Mary’s and Zechariah’s angelic visitations?
- What picture does this pericope (passage of scripture) paint for you of the joy you can have in Jesus?
- Seek God’s blessing.
- Rejoice that God uses those who love him regardless of social standing
- Let the joy of Christ’s first coming be the desire of your spirit.
Read Psalm 145
- How does this psalm reflect Mary’s Magnificat of Luke 1:46-55?
- What picture does this pericope paint for you of the joy you have inJesus?
- Seek God’s greatness.
- Rejoice that God’s promises are “yes” in Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20).
- Let the joy of Christ’s first coming be the focus of your intercession.