Sunday, December 15, 2019

"Great Joy" and the Angel's Upside Down Announcement

Advent has been speeding by this year. And yet, as I look at my social media feeds, I don’t see as many articles and stories about the Christmas season as in years past. I wonder why that is. Maybe they think everything’s already been said. It probably has. But if the last post is true, we need those yearly Advent reminders.

The church year calendar is there to keep us on track. Not for some checklist of holy tasks, but in sync with the rhythm of our need and God’s provision.

The 3rd Sunday of Advent is traditionally called Gaudete Sunday. It comes from the Latin word, gaudete, meaning rejoice. Today we light the candle of Joy. What better way to reflect on that theme than with Kate DiCamillo’s Christmas tale, Great Joy.

I didn’t think I’d be using many non-Nativity stories for this year’s reflections, but I knew I could trust DiCamillo to have the right spirit in her story. If you haven’t read any of her other books, I highly recommend them. She’s written everything from beginning readers to early chapter books and middle grade novels. And she is a gem of an author.

Today’s story is about a little girl named Frances and a poor organ grinder with a pet monkey who plays music out on the street. It’s a week before Christmas and very cold outside. Frances wonders if the organ grinder is going to be ok. “Where do they go at night?” she asks her mother. But mother seems to have other things on her mind. The Christmas pageant is quickly approaching, after all, and there is still a lot to prepare.

When it is time to leave for the church, Frances sees the organ grinder, still out on the corner. “You can come,” she tells him. “The play is at the church. It’s just down the street. You can both come.” He smiles back. But she could tell he was sad.

Back stage at the church, everyone is bustling around, getting ready for their scene. When it is Frances’ turn to play the angel, she stands frozen on the stage, unable to say a word. All she could think about was the organ grinder, outside, alone on the snowy street.
The world was quiet. Everyone waited. Then, at the back of the sanctuary, a door opened. Frances smiled.

"Behold!” she shouted. “I bring you tidings of Great Joy!”

And because the words felt so right, Frances said them again, "Great Joy!”
DiCamillo’s story is unassuming, yet packs a hard punch as the “world quietly waits” to see what will happen. There isn’t a clear analogy here, but a demonstration of God’s great compassion for each of us, from the very lowest to the richest king.

The angels could have performed in Jerusalem for the court of King Herod, yet as Mary exalts in her Magnificat, “God has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate” (Luke 1:52). He chose the lowly shepherds to be the first ones to hear the Good News. It was not because the rulers of the land needed to hear the message any less, but because declaring this flipped-on-its-head Gospel to the shepherds “felt so right.”

A humbled savior, announced to honored laborers.
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
- Luke 2:10-11

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.