Advent 2016 - The Season of Joy

Advent Week 3 
This week we light the third candle on the Advent wreath.
We light this candle in joy; 
Jesus is our joy.

Isaiah 35:1-10
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
   the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
   and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
   the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
   the majesty of our God. 

Strengthen the weak hands,
   and make firm the feeble knees. 
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
   ‘Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
   He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
   He will come and save you.’ 

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
   and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
   and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
   and streams in the desert; 
the burning sand shall become a pool,
   and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,
   the grass shall become reeds and rushes. 

A highway shall be there,
   and it shall be called the Holy Way;
the unclean shall not travel on it,
   but it shall be for God’s people;
   no traveller, not even fools, shall go astray. 
No lion shall be there,
   nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
   but the redeemed shall walk there. 
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
   and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
   they shall obtain joy and gladness,
   and sorrow and sighing shall flee away."

Luke 1:46-55
And Mary said,
‘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 for ever.’

It is easy to misunderstand joy.
In our everyday language joy and happiness have become conflated. And joy is robbed of its power to transform as a result. 

Happiness is transitory. Happiness is momentary. Happiness is fleeting. Happiness is circumstantial. Happiness is egocentric. Happiness is a dog chasing its tail.

Joy on the other hand...
Joy is that which lasts in spite of circumstance. Joy is beyond our individualistic self-centered feelings. Joy is not something that we possess. Joy is deeper. Joy is more. Joy fills being. 

In the passages above the presence of joy is tied to the justice, healing, and mercy of the Lord. Joy comes when abundance appears where once there was a void; where more than enough bursts forth where once there was only lack - "waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert." 
So, joy calls us toward difficult things.  
Joy asks us to see the world differently; to live in our world differently.
Joy speaks out against scarcity and fear through action. 

Joy can only be experienced when it is for all.
This way of joy, the way of the Lord, calls us all toward lifting up the lowly and filling the hungry with good things. This is precisely where joy dwells.

Joy is lodged in this other-minded understanding of the world in which we live.
Joy is yet another call for us to be "as if" people in a "not yet" and "maybe never" world.
Joy is a grand counter narrative that demands mercy for all people through the work of the hands of those who dare to rejoice in the desert confident of the coming rain.

As Advent people, may joy not only infuse all that we do, may it also become the root out of which our actions grow.

"A highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Holy Way"

Joy to the world!
The Lord is come.

Sometime before next Sunday, consider what brings joy. 
Each day write a sentence about one of those things by answering these questions...
What is it that brings you joy?
Why does this bring you joy?
Think about some ways in which you might be an agent of joy in your house, your school, your place of employment, your world.

Service - Christmas Benevolence
Shopping, shopping, and more shopping. Food shopping on Wednesday and Thursday. And Delivery Day is Saturday, December 17. Check out the church website to sign up to help. 


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