Leap For Joy: A Homily by Deacon Jim Hyatt

So here we are in the fourth week of Advent, we are almost there! Our houses are decorated, trees are trimmed, we’ve listened to a lot of Christmas music and presents are being wrapped. Some of us will travel for Christmas, others will have visitors like grandparents and siblings come to them. And we all love visitors for the holiday’s, right?

We are almost ready for the holiday…but are we personally ready for the event, for the real meaning of Christmas like Charlie Brown said? During Advent, we have heard readings that talk about journeys, visitors and preparation – getting ready for the coming of our Savior. It is about our preparing a place in our hearts and lives for Jesus Christ. Let’s look at this Advent journey of ours so far.

During Advent, we have followed the stories of John the Baptist and Mary from the Gospel of Luke as they preach about and live lives of being prepared. In the first week of Advent, Jesus told us what signs to look for at his coming, and to, “stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” We do not know the day, so he urges us to be prepared for his coming. 

In the second week, John the Baptist is the voice of one crying out in the desert, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” This beautiful imagery is spot on for us today too, we need to work to make straight the pathways to our hearts and lives to be prepared for the coming of Jesus. By conforming our lives to him, we make ourselves ready to receive him.

And last week, John the Baptist was asked by the crowds, “What should we do” to prepare the way. He taught them how to share, to be satisfied with their wages and to be fair in their dealings with people. Good teaching to make pathways and lives more aligned with Jesus and to be ready to receive him. Preparation well made.

Which brings us to this week. Today we hear about the journey that Mary has made to her cousin Elizabeth. Mary has just heard about the life and world changing event from the angel Gabriel that she is to be the mother of our Savior. She feels compelled to travel to see Elizabeth who is also pregnant, and upon entering her home, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaps for joy. Mary has not even had the chance to tell Elizabeth her news and the baby is already leaping for joy because he knows that Jesus is near.

Maybe that baby can teach us something about how we should feel when Jesus is near to us! That’s why we need to prepare the way for that relationship with him so we too can leap for joy.

Much has been written about the yes Mary had for the angel Gabriel at the Annunciation, her yes to the will of the Father. While she was surely shocked by this news, she was nevertheless prepared to say yes by how she had lived her life. Gabriel addressed her as, “Hail, full of grace!” because she was, like no one else has ever been. She had that grace because she had a preexisting relationship with the Lord that was all trusting and all loving. She had straightened the pathways to her heart, she was full of grace, and she was thus prepared to say yes. 

Elizabeth likewise. In today’s Gospel it says Elizabeth too was filled with the Holy Spirit. Both women were filled with the Holy Spirit and so both were prepared. They had the Lord in their hearts and lives.

So, what about us? Where are we in our own Advent journey of preparation? Are we ready to leap for joy?? Mary and Elizabeth are role models for us. They have both invited the Lord into their hearts which has allowed them to say yes and to live their lives with the fruits of the Holy Spirit working within them. They of course had worries, anxiety and fears just like we do, but they were fortified with an inner peace and joy that only comes from the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit is firmly entrenched in our hearts, the fruits of joy and peace can permeate our life. It is no coincidence that when one has that solid relationship with Jesus that they have greater peace and joy in their lives. And we all know how badly we need that don’t we? 

By bringing him into our hearts, we too can leap for joy!

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