The Third Sunday in Advent

those who dream...sow joy (joy)

focal scriptures Luke 1:46-55 | Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11 | Ps. 126
big ideas: Ultimately, dreams sow joy, even if that joy doesn’t immediately spring forth. Sowing seeds into the soil always feels risky and feeble—how can something so small become something so beautiful, so big, and so nourishing? Like Mary, we are called to tend and nurture the dreams God has woven into us.

Guiding Questions:
* As you revisit Mary’s Magnificat, recall the sequence of events that lead up to her proclamation of praise (next Sunday’s lection moves us backward in the narrative). How do these prior events impact and shape Mary’s song?
* Dr. Riggs refers to Mary’s expression as “anticipatory joy.” How would you define anticipatory joy? What does it look like to live with anticipatory joy?
* Sowing seeds is always an act of faith. Some of the seeds won’t germinate at all, remaining buried in the soil. And if they do, some of the weak sprouts must be weeded out in order for their stronger neighbors to thrive. Seeds must be kept moist at all times or else they won’t survive. A hard rain or rough winds can easily pummel them, pests can devour them before they have a chance to develop. And yet, our entire food system depends on seeds. All plants begin and end with seed. Often we think of joy as a big, full emotion. But what if joy, like seeds, starts small? What are small actions that help us cultivate joy?
* Civil rights activist, Ruby Sales writes, “What’s up with Mary? What does she, a poor adolescent unwed mother, whom the Roman Empire and her community press down to the lowest rung on the social ladder, have to sing about? Why would she thank God and celebrate the coming of a new child in a colonized
world, where the Roman Empire, the most brutal and egregious of Empires, will close doors in an attempt to reduce her child’s life to the barest bones of possibilities and options? . . . We expect Mary to sing a blues song with all of this happening.” Why does Mary say yes—yes to carrying and birthing God’s dream?

Quotes & Resources for Inspiration
“Mary’s sung testimony of the hungry being filled and the rich being sent empty away reflects nothing less
than a moral imagination where the world will be set right side up again. And so, what does this mean for
us as an Advent people in this our time? It means that we must carry forth into the world as Mary did a
moral imagination. A moral imagination is grounded in the absolute belief that the world can be and will be
made better—it will be just. A moral imagination envisions Isaiah’s ‘new heaven and new earth’ where the
‘wolf and the lamb shall feed together’ and thus as Mary sang, the poor and the rich shall be made equal.
A moral imagination disrupts any notion that the world as it is, is the way it should be or ultimately is going
to be. . . . What does it mean for us to be a people of Advent in this our time? It means that we must carry
forth into the world a moral imagination of God’s future and thus to really believe that the way things are
is not the way that things are going to be, which means one must act accordingly. We must simply put, live
into, and act upon our moral imaginations.”
—Kelly Brown Douglas. “To Be An Advent People.” Published on Feminism & Religion. December 16, 2014.

“The Magnificat recalls an ancestral promise and she bears witness, in her very body, to a God of promise.
Today I call you to proclaim the faithful promises of a faithful God to this world and its people. . . . The end
of the Magnificat speaks of a memorial to God’s mercy in the text. That memorial was not a monument of
stone, but the love of God poured into human flesh, woman-flesh, scandalously passing through scandalized
flesh. Today I call you to be scandalous. Scandalously accept, love, serve, and nurture human beings in
and not in spite of their bodies, their flesh, particularly those whose flesh the world disdains. Above all the
Magnificat is political. It speaks directly to and against those enthroned in power. I call you to be political.
Speak to those who can and will hear you and speak against those who hoard power and resources while
others hunger and hurt. May God continue to write her story of promise in and through you for the hope
and healing of the world. Amen.”
—Wilda Gafney. “Live Your Theology Out Loud in Public.” December 16, 2017.

“Here’s what I think. I think it’s easy to be joyless in this world. It’s simple. It doesn’t take much effort. You can
put others down. You can dwell in hopelessness. You can even lob out negative comments on the internet
from the comfort of your own home. The best part is that if you lack joy, you don’t even have to do anything
constructive. You can just dwell in it. But it is a whole lot harder to rejoice. Why? Because joy is hard. Now
that may sound like an oxymoron. Joy is joy. Shouldn’t joy be easy? I don’t think so. Because I think joy is
something deeper than that. But that also means that it’s rooted. And it’s the thing that remains in you even
when everything else around you is crumbling down. It has been said by many, in many different ways, that
joy is resistance. That is especially true in the worst of days.”
—Emily C. Heath. “Joy As Resistance.” December 11, 2016.