“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” Psalm 126:3
This past Sunday, we explored the importance of feeling amazed as we recalled the naming of Zechariah and Elizabeth’s child at the Temple. They both insisted, “His name is John!” as the angel Gabriel had told them. Then Zechariah’s voice returned miraculously, and he was able to speak for the first time in nine months! He broke into praise and song, proclaiming that the Lord has done great things for us! With the psalmist, he experienced joy like never before.
So, I find myself asking, "How does amazement change or shape us? What does it compel us to do?"
As soon as Zechariah’s voice returns to him, he decides to sing—and not just any song, but a song of thanksgiving to God, a lullaby of blessing for his newborn son. You might argue that for Zechariah, the wondrous miracle of finding his voice again compels him to rejoice, to thank God, and to pass blessings onto others. This Advent, can we allow amazement to do this to us as well?
In Luke 1:58, Elizabeth’s relatives and neighbors rejoice with her after John is born. The Greek word for rejoice is sugchairó, which means to celebrate God’s grace together, to share in someone else’s joy. Recently, I've had the privilege of mentoring a phenomenal group of up-and-coming clergywomen who were ordained as provisional elders at last year's annual conference. All of these women give me such hope for our future as a denomination. (FYI Rev. Lauren Todd from Floris UMC will be preaching on Hannah at CoF on January 21 for our Bad Girls of the Bible series!) Our sisterhood helps me to keep it real (ministry can be challenging at times) AND to find the joy in every moment so that I can stay the course. Pastor Alyssa Densham from Provision Church is seen being silly with Buddy the Elf, who is one of my favorite beacons of child-like wonder and amazement. Who does this for you as you navigate this weary world?
In her book, Atlas of the Heart, Brené Brown uses the German word freudenfreude to describe the feeling of enjoying another’s success (see pages 36-37). In an intervention to try to increase freudenfreude, her researchers coined two new terms: “shoy” meaning to intentionally share someone else’s joy, and “bragitude,” meaning to express gratitude to someone following their personal success. In other words, you could say that Elizabeth’s neighbors are also exhibiting freudenfreude, shoy, and bragitude!
When Zechariah’s voice returns, he rejoices by praising God through singing. In this story, we see the ripple effect of contagious joy, of joy that grows when it is shared. And, so, I have a challenge:
Will you please take 10 seconds and make a brief recording on your cell phone of your family sending Christmas salutations or well wishes for a New Year in front of your Christmas Tree, around your dining room table, with neighbors, out in the community – somewhere that you are experiencing joy together? And then, will you share it with me? You might say something like “Merry Christmas from the Lusks!” Or “Happy New Year from the Godfreys!” (please text or email your video to me by Wednesday, December 27). I plan to include your joyful greetings as a way to increase our freudenfreude and shoy during the livestream service on December 31.
I hope that this season brings you many opportunities to be filled with awe and wonder as we welcome the Christ Child once again into our hearts this Christmas.
- In what ways do you practice awe? What habits, rituals, or exercises can allow you to be amazed more frequently?
- How might you practice shoy and bragitude in your relationships as a way to celebrate authentically the ultimate joy of the season?
PSA: Vespers will be on break through January 9 so that Pastor Abi, staff, and our volunteers can enjoy a bit of the Christmas festivities!