Another week closer to Christmas Day, and another week less to get things done and organised. And I’m not trying to stress you out! Today we hear the story of Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. Whenever I think of this story and the word joy, I remember the words we are given further down in Luke 1 when Mary, the mother of Jesus, goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth. At verse 44 we are told that Elizabeth says to Mary: “For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.” Elizabeth is yet another woman who has been stricken with the stigma of barrenness. However, we don’t hear much about this inability to have children, it is noted but the main focus is on Zechariah who is struck dumb due to his doubt and questioning. The joy that is felt and experienced at this prediction of a child, let alone the birth of John himself, has been shared with many other parents. Not everyone gets to experience that joy though, just as many do not get to experience parenthood. You could say that not much has changed in our world since the beginning. Women are still judged by their ability to be mothers. This time of year, we all focus with joy on the baby born in a manger some 2,000 years ago. Yet, for many women and men, there is real pain and heartbreak around singleness, barrenness, miscarriages, still births, lost children, and so much more. As families gather around many feel the pain of family never realised. As we explore this joy, I encourage you to take a moment, pause, and reflect on those who you know who find joy hard at this time of year. This is why we take the time to offer the Blue Christmas service, so that we can reflect and sit with those who struggle with the joy of Christmas. As for this child, John, he becomes the preparer of the way, the one to point to the joy that is Christ with us on earth. Remember that I’ve mentioned before that joy is more than happiness. It is something deeper and more sustaining, more inclined to bring a smile than a chuckle. It is joy that keeps us going even amongst the trials that cross our paths. Joy is the basis for these seasons of Advent and Christmas, in fact joy is the basis for our lives as children of God; deep, sustaining joy sent to us from God.