And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” Luke 1:46-47
Years ago. visions of sugarplums danced in my head whenever my mother would take us to the Wonder Bread/Hostess store. We strolled among racks of Ding Dongs, Twinkies, and Ho-Ho’s amazed and delighted at the bounty before us! I passed by all these confectionery delights looking for my favorite: Hostess Cupcakes. I fantasized about the two chocolate cupcakes filled with sweet cream in the center, topped with chocolate frosting and the trademark vanilla swirl stripe. My mother would typically add a few of these to her basket, and I couldn’t wait to get home to peel off the plastic wrapper and start devouring my cupcake!
Forty years later, my tastes have changed, and Hostess cupcakes no longer impress me. I still love cupcakes, preferring upscale bakeries such as Georgetown Cupcakes. This tiny corner bakery is located on M Street outside of Washington DC. This intersection is busy, filled with little shoppes and restaurants, surrounded by historic brownstones. My wonderful husband deals with the crazy traffic and narrow side streets, dropping me off at the corner, while I wait in line for cupcakes. Rarely does he complain but indulges me by driving around in circles while I make my purchase. We then drive home, and two hours later, I squeal in delight over flavors like the Chocolate Peppermint Ganache cupcake, savoring its sweetness.
Christmas is the season for delight: twinkling lights, decorated trees, wrapped presents, and Christmas carols. In my home, you often hear Andy Williams bellow “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” while I bake Christmas cookies or write out cards. Even Maxwell House Coffee tugs at your heartstrings with its sentimental commercials, usually a homecoming, that warms your soul. In general, the world feels calmer, at peace, and full of hope. Harlan Miller, a 20th century columnist, said, “I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month.”
This same sense of delight and wonder is found in the story that makes Christmas possible: the birth of Jesus. This year, I am choosing to read the Biblical account repeatedly throughout December. I want my “soul to magnify the Lord” as Mary embraces her miracle. I want to be obedient to the voice of God, putting aside all my pride, as Joseph did when the angel spoke to him on three separate occasions. I want to stand in awe with the shepherds as the angels sing “Glory to God in the highest.” I want to lift my eyes up to heaven with Simeon declaring that “my eyes have seen your salvation.” I want to thank God for my redemption as Anna did in the temple. Finally, I want to fall and worship with joy as the wise men did when they saw Jesus, recognizing his royalty.
The word “delight” is recorded multiple times in the Psalms, encouraging us to delight in things like the law and commandments of the Lord. But this word is also found in prophecy. We don’t know much about the prophet Malachi except that he prophesied at a time when Israel was returning from exile. Although the remnant was glad to be back in Jerusalem, they knew that this wasn’t the final plan. God had foretold about a Messiah who would come to redeem and restore the people of God. In Malachi 3:1, he prophesies, “Behold I send my messenger…in whom you delight.” This future messenger is Jesus, and we are supposed to delight in Him.
There have been a lot of challenges this past year. We switched churches, dealt with a serious injury, faced the unexpected deaths of two uncles, contracted COVID-19, and suffered a recent job loss. These are just the surface challenges; additionally, we’ve had to work through some emotional and relational issues. I could look at this list and easily fall into despair since I am still waiting on some resolutions. But I would miss some of the highlights this year has given me: my daughter’s engagement, feeling connected to a new faith community, growing in God, celebrating our 25th anniversary, watching my grandson grow, and quality time spent with family and friends.
Yes, I delight in cupcakes, but even if I eat slowly, this delight lasts for only a few minutes. Soon, the memory fades, making this feeling of delight a temporary situation. But just like the cupcake, my challenges are temporary. Over time, they will be resolved one way or the other. Even the memory of my highlights will fade because they, too, are temporary. But, If I keep my eyes on the messenger like Malachi suggested, and celebrate His birth, the delight I will find in Jesus is eternal. And maybe this eternal hope in Jesus is the feeling Harlan Miller wanted to open monthly, making every day “the most wonderful time of the year!”