Gratitude and Joy

Gratitude and Joy

December 23, 2019

Mary said,
“With all my heart I glorify the Lord!
   In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.
He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant.
Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored
     because the mighty one has done great things for me.
Holy is his name.
He shows mercy to everyone,
    from one generation to the next,
    who honors him as God.
He has shown strength with his arm.
He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
    and lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things
    and sent the rich away empty-handed.
He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
    remembering his mercy,
    just as he promised to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.” —Luke 1:46-55 Common English Bible (CEB)

Today’s lectionary readings afford the readers a glimpse into the lives of Abraham, King David and Mary. Although I have focused on Mary’s words for today’s devotion, there is a common theme woven into and through the words of each reading: gratitude and joy.  

This relationship between gratitude and joy has been vying for my attention since early November. First, they began to whisper to me around All Saints Day as I reflected on the ancestors of my faith. By Christ the King Sunday these two words became a roar in my spirit. Gratitude and joy; gratitude and joy. Even as I settled for the evening with meditation and prayer, I discovered I would breathe in and the word “Gratitude” would be on my lips and I would exhale and speak the word, “Joy.” It wasn’t even intentional (though I wish it would have been); something deep within me moved to this before my mind even fully recognized what I was doing. My prayer time in the morning and in the evening became bookends for my day; my prayer life would find its rhythm with and in gratitude and joy.   

This rhythm has further informed how I have journeyed through Advent this year and remains even as I make my way to the manger once again. Gratitude. Joy.

Honestly, I don’t know for sure which came first—my awareness of gratitude or joy. I do sense that joy is a result of knowing who I am as a child of God and that I am loved. Period. No matter what. Gratitude is a result of recognizing what I have been blessed with and who I have been blessed by. This sense of gratitude and joy cohabitating within my soul is not natural. Experiencing joy is dependent upon God’s grace that invites into this real relationship of knowing and being known by God. Being grateful is a decision and something that is practiced by me every single day. You see, this sense of gratitude and joy I have come to know has taught me that when we can be grateful in all circumstances, then we can be joyful in all circumstances.

Today is December 23rd; Christmas Eve eve, if you will. The next two days for some will be full of celebration; for some, this may be a season of deep grief or unwanted aloneness. For all of us, I pray that we can take time to breathe and reflect on the importance of this season with gratitude and joy. May these characteristics of some of our faith’s greatest characters be born in each of us; as like Abraham, David and Mary, we respond to God’s invitation to become critical partners for the work of redemption and hope for the world. And may we all respond with gratitude and joy.
“Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thes 5:16-18 NIV)

Prayer: “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” was written by Charles Wesley; he wrote the lyrics intending to commemorate the Nativity of Jesus and prepare for the Second Coming. May the words of this hymn be our prayer of gratitude and joy this day.

Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all-sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.
By: Rev. Dr. Lanette Plambeck