Third Sunday of Advent: Choose Hope

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
(Luke 1:46b-55)

In observance of the third week of Advent, many Christians around the world will read the Magnificat, Mary’s song of joy. It may feel wrong to focus on the theme of joy during a time with so much turmoil, especially following the recent declaration about the status of Jerusalem. However, in light of the declaration and the events that followed, it is even more pressing that we take a moment to reflect on this theme, as we continue to Choose Hope this Advent. We do not put aside our anger, frustration, or fear, but allow joy to permeate our hearts as we anticipate the coming of Jesus.

Mary begins her song glorifying God and rejoicing in what God has done for her. Then, she moves into a list of the wonderful things God has done throughout history. God has shown great strength, scattered the proud, brought down the powerful, lifted up the lowly, filled the hungry, and sent the rich away empty. Mary sings of a God who is for the oppressed, and more powerful than any human. It is because of what God has already done that she rejoices. Even though the political climate of Mary’s day was full of unrest, she sings of the wonderful things God had already done. In doing so, her song becomes a prophetic testimony to what God will do through the birth of her son. Mary has reason to rejoice.

In a webinar hosted by Churches for Middle East Peace this week, three Christian leaders from the Middle East spoke about the recent decision on Jerusalem and its effects on the people in the region. While, there is much to be said about the Jerusalem decision and the repercussions it will have in the peace process (read more in CMEP’s press release), let us turn our eyes to these leaders to learn where they find hope and joy in the midst of unrest. Father. Dr. Michel Jalakh, an Antonine monk in the Maronite Catholic Church, who also serves as the Secretary General of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) spoke about the coming together of the Muslim and Christian communities in Beirut. Rev. Najla Kassab,  President of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) and Director of the Christian Education Department for the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL) spoke about the passion of young people in Beirut to continue to work toward peace. Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, founder and President of Dar al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture in Bethlehem, spoke about the creative ways his students are using beauty, art, and culture as tools for peacemaking. All three spoke of hope and joy in the midst of turmoil.

Let us not forget the great things our God has already done, and prophetically speak to what God will do. As Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb reminded us in the webinar, hope is not what we see, but what we do. This Advent, we Choose Hope and rejoice with Mary, not setting aside our frustrations and angers, but remembering what God has done, and expectantly waiting for what God will do.

God,

Thank you for giving us reasons to rejoice, even when our world looks grim. We ask for safety for all people in the Holy Land as they respond to the recent declaration on Jerusalem. We rejoice alongside Mary, thanking you for joy and hope in the midst of unrest. And, we ask that the things you have already done, you would do again: for the proud to be scattered, the powerful to be brought down, the lowly to be lifted up, and the hungry filled.

Amen.

This devotion was written by Molly Lorden, the Millennial Engagement Coordinator at Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP). She is also currently studying toward a Master of Divinity at Princeton Theological Seminary.

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