“Joy Can Be Had!”

~ Zephaniah 3:14-20; Isaiah 12:2-6 ~

Today is the Sunday of Joy. Amongst these Advent candles, today’s candle is pink, I think to make it stand out – a special candle for a special Advent Sunday. Today we turn to joy.

On this Third Sunday of Advent the gospel text, which was alluded to in our Advent candle lighting moment, is all about John the Baptist going about the countryside telling people of the coming Messiah and saying things like, “you brood of vipers!” Well, too much judgment, I say, for this Joy Sunday. So, we’ll set that aside and focus on the Old Testament passages Carol read to us earlier. They are more joyful.

As we saw in the last two weeks, in preparing for the coming of the Christ, we are called to wake up to the hope we have in his coming and to focus our vision to seek the peace of God. The peace that comes when we turn from this world and see his world.

The Joy that comes from God is not something that we can seek. It is something that overtakes us while we are working to keep the vision of Christ’s presence alive and as we are walking the path that Jesus has set before us. As we walk that path joy happens to us. We gain glimpses of what it is that God is about. We encounter situations where we see God’s promises coming true and we have this great joy in our hearts. Indeed, joy can be had.

Joy happens in anticipation of God’s work of redemption. Zephaniah speaks of such joy.

Sing aloud…shout!

Rejoice and exult with all your heart…

God has taken away judgements and turned away your enemies.

Isaiah echoes these thoughts, extolling us to give thanks for God’s redemptive work in us.

I will give thanks to you, O God,

for though you were angry with me,

your anger turned away, and you comforted me.

The prophet continues the theme:

Give thanks to God, call on God’s name;

make known God’s deeds among the nations;

proclaim that God’s name is exalted. 

Sing praises to God, who has done gloriously;

let this be known in all the earth. 

Shout aloud and sing for joy.

Joy is such a contagious thing that while we rejoice in God, God also rejoices in us. Joy is a mutual happening. Thus, it brings renewal.

God will rejoice over you with gladness

and will renew you in love;

God will exult over you with loud

singing as on a day of festival.

God is at work. And God’s people are healed and restored and honored.

I will save the lame and gather the outcast,

and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. 

At that time I will bring you home,

at the time when I gather you;

for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth,

when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says God.

Joy happens in being part of something that is much bigger than ourselves.

Today is the Advent Sunday of Joy. Do we dare let joy overtake us? Overwhelm us? Can we embrace joy? Then keep working the vision of Christ’s presence. Keep walking the path Jesus has set before us. Again, as the prophet proclaims:

God is my salvation;

I will trust, and will not be afraid,

for God is my strength and my might;

God has become my salvation. 

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

 May the joy of Christ be yours this Christmas. Amen.

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