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The Pane: the Unsettling Truth About Joy

Have you ever thought about how insane Mary must have felt with the angel that told her she would give birth to God’s Son? First of all, it’s not every day that you have an encounter with a celestial being. Second, why would God find favor on her, a 13 or 14-year old illiterate peasant from a no-name town? Third, who, what, and how of having God’s child?

And yet, Luke gives us remarkable insight into Mary’s response in 1:46-55. In this beautiful song, we join Mary in this overwhelming joy she felt for what God was doing and for the role she would play in it.

We can learn from Mary that joy is not the absence of discomfort. This young woman will suffer through unimaginable physical, emotional, relational, communal, and spiritual anguish because of saying “Let it be” to God’s choosing of her.

Joy is not a fleeting emotion of happiness that comes and goes based on our present circumstances. Instead, it is forged within our soul, shaped and formed by God that desires to equip us to experience it no matter the circumstances.

God’s good work within our soul creates a great capacity for conscious awareness. Mary was able to see through the challenging nature of her circumstances with a greater understanding of what all of this meant, not only for herself and Joseph but also for the entire world. Joy is a conscious awareness of God, God’s presence in our lives, God’s unseen work around us, and God’s leadership before us.

In our journey with God, as we become more attuned to God’s voice, word, and way, we can see through the cling and the clatter of life’s ups and downs that this too shall pass.

This is why James could write, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (1:2) or Peter states, “In all this, you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (1:6).

Maybe, as we sing “Joy to the World” this season, we have a greater understanding of just how complex and necessary the characteristic of joy is for our lives. Maybe, the gift we need most in the unsettling context of this pandemic is God’s gift of joy.


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