Leap for Joy!

Luke 1:39-55 (Micah 5:2-5a & Psalm 80:1-7)

What makes you leap for joy?  What makes you happy—dance on the table?

Sometimes our vision is too shortsighted.  We see only what is in front of us.  I suppose in a sense that is being realistic.  Like Sergeant Friday on Dragnet we say, “just give me the facts.”  

And, sometimes, the facts are not positive or encouraging at all.  Sometimes however, the facts blind us to the higher reality that is hidden just out of sight.  And…it is the higher reality that we need to see, to focus on, to base our faith on.  Discovering that can make us leap for joy!

The movie Matrix is about war, conflict between humans and computers.  Artificial Intelligence (AI) has taken over the world and is using humans as an energy supply. 

“The Matrix is the world that has been pulled over your eyes,” says a character named Morpheus, “to blind you from the truth.”

The human battle with the Matrix has played out over the course of three movies, the first released in 1999 and the second and third in 2003. Now, a fourth Matrix movie is scheduled to open in theaters on December 22, 2021, with simultaneous release on HBO Max. The film industry is hoping for a Christmas blockbuster.

The Matrix is a land of illusion, as well as a place of really cool, slow-motion, science-fiction shoot-outs. “Wake up, Neo,” says Morpheus to the star of the movie, played by Keanu Reeves. “As long as the Matrix exists, the human race will never be free.”

It has an incredible amount of Christian language and imagery in it.  I have only seen the first movie.  It is not a “Christian” movie; not a valid presentation of the Good News of Jesus.  However it is fun.  And it does illustrate the conflict between what is real and not real in an entertaining way.  Maybe I will try and watch this fourth Matrix movie.

Life in early Palestine was not that much different than ours is today.  Those with money and power lorded it over to those who were vulnerable.  Injustice was common.  Inequity and conflict were everyday realities.  But, behind the scenes, in a nearly invisible silent way, God was on the move. 

“How silently , how silently the wondrous gift is given.  So God impart to human hearts the blessings of His heaven.  No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive Him still the dear Christ enters in.” (verse 3, O Little Town of Bethlehem).

Mary, the mother of our Lord, has been visited by the Arch Angel Gabriel.  She will be the mother of God’s Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  As impossible and audacious as that sounds, she believed and yielded herself to God’s unfolding plan of salvation.  Now, she hurries to see her cousin Elizabeth who is pregnant with the baby who will be John the Baptist.  

Mary greets Elizabeth and infant John, in the womb of his mother, leaps for joy.  Elizabeth is startled and “surprised by joy” herself.  She blesses Mary and commends Mary’s faith and believe in what God is doing through her miraculous pregnancy.  

NOTE:  Not everyone believes in what we call the “virgin birth,” meaning that God the Holy Spirit conceived in Mary the seed that would become Jesus, our Savior.  That means Jesus is God’s Son, both true God and true human. I believe that God can and does work in ways that defy our human imagination and understanding.  

After Elizabeth’s response and blessing of Mary, Mary herself bursts into a song of praise that has been called the Magnificat.  In it Mary peeks behind the scene of history—and sees God at work.  I don’t know about you, but for me that takes an incredible amount of faith in God, to look past the present reality of chaos and confusion, power struggles, lies, deceit, violence, greed, arrogance, disunity and division, etc. etc.  and to see God on the move.  

God is on the move today as well as in Mary’s day.  The value of believing it is that it changes us and changes our values and attitudes, our actions and behavior.  Believing it enables and empowers us to not give in to negative thinking and despair.  It keeps us from caving in on ourselves in selfish fear.  When fear rules terror reigns.  Then no one wins.  Look down through the annals of history.  Those who experience life during wars, those who flee for refugee from tyranny and violence, they know what living in fear is like.  

Mary’s song of praise helps us to lift the veil of history to see past our human tragedy and evil.  It helps us see our loving and gracious God taking on evil and defeating it.  It is to see the invisible hand of God at work through Jesus becoming human—one of us—and taking on sin, death and the devil on our behalf and winning.  Defeating evil at its core.  

To believe that gives us strength to carry on.  It enables us to do the best that we can in loving and seeing God and one another in the meantime.  While we wait for the final act of God’s salvation work—the Second Coming of Christ—when all will be set right again.  

That, dear believer, is not a vain hope.  It is what our faith is built on.  It is what you and I cling to.  Keep believing and trusting, keep following Jesus.  Keep loving all God and all of God’s people because we are all part of God’s plan.  We are all in this together.  If we believe that, we can leap for joy—along with John, Elizabeth and Mary.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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