Isaiah 35:1-10; Luke 1:46b-55
Good morning. Today is the third Sunday in the season of Advent; today we reflect on joy. But first, I want to offer a solemn remembrance. A man named Carroll Spinney died last Sunday. He was a voice actor and a puppeteer, and if you don’t remember him by name, you will certainly remember this two most famous characters, Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street.
I grew up with Sesame Street and The Muppet Show. I loved the Muppets. My sense of humor was informed by the Muppets, and I’m glad that was a part of my formative years. So, it was like another piece of my childhood died when I learned that Carroll Spinney died; it was another marker of my age and how far in the rearview mirror all of those things are.
This season can be difficult for many people. I think my childhood was mostly happy, and the holidays were particularly joyous. But when I think of all of my loved ones who have passed, all the people who loved me into being and gave me joy, well, sometimes I get sad.
I wish I could recapture that joy I felt as a child, and I know I’m not alone in this. The holidays can be a double-edged sword. Joy can be difficult to find when we’re looking backwards.
However, this past week I experienced a lot of joy with members of this congregation. On Tuesday, I was invited to join the ladies from one of the PW circles for lunch. Nine of us went to the Chapter House. The food was good and the company was even better.
We were seated in the back dining room and most of the tables were empty. There were three older gentlemen at a table on the other side of the room. They were finishing their meal when we arrived, but they lingered over their coffee and conversation.
Perhaps an hour later, after we had finished eating, the conversation at our table grew louder. Then someone said something really funny and the whole table erupted with laughter. And most of you know that I laugh pretty loudly.
The three older gentlemen were still at their table. The moment we burst out laughing, all three of them snapped their heads and shot dirty looks at us. And then one of them said, “Next time, say it a little louder so the whole restaurant can hear you.” He was wearing green. I wanted to ask if his name was Oscar.
I wanted to do more than that. I had to stifle the urge to confront him, but I really, really wanted to go over to their table and give them all a lecture. A loud lecture. For everyone to hear. But it occurred to me that it was Advent, and such a lecture would not have left me with a feeling of peace—smug satisfaction, perhaps, but not peace. I realized that the right response was no response. I ignored them and remained in the joy that was shared at our table.
Both of our readings this morning are filled with joy. Our reading from the Gospel of Luke is a song of praise, sung by the virgin Mary. She has just been visited by the angel Gabriel, who told her that she is about to conceive a child and she is to name that child Jesus; she is about to bring the Son of God into the world. Our reading this morning is Mary’s response to that news; it’s her song of praise. She is filled with joy and she gives thanks to God.