Preaching on the third Sunday of Advent typically seems to involve some explanation of what Joy means. Some reminder that joy is more than happiness.
It is a deeper expression of gratitude or fulfilment.
At some point I am tempted to say I don’t know how to describe it but you know it when you experience it.
This weekend on twitter I read a musing by a colleague regarding joy. Is it a choice; an action so to speak? Or is joy a gift from God? Perhaps either and?
I suspect Joy is something we experience, but is also connected to how we express it, or respond to the work of God in our lives.
It is with that in mind I want to turn to the Prophet Isaiah’s writing. This passage from Isaiah comes after many of the exiles have returned to Jerusalem after more than half a century in exile. Most of these men and women would have been born in exile and grew up with stories about their home city and its wondrous temple. Apparently they were deeply disappointed on arriving in Jerusalem.
A new temple was being built but it was not living up to the picture they had in their minds.
They were seeking a connection with their God. After a lifetime amidst other people and their ways of worship to their Gods and their temples they hoped that this fabled city and its wondrous temple would reconnect them with God.
It wasn’t living up to the hype.
And in to that mix, that disappointment and sadness and frustration and broken heartedness, Isaiah says.
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
God is not housed in a temple. Signs of our faithfulness are not found in beautiful places of worship, but in our relationship to our fellow human beings. In how we work in this world.
That is not to say worship and places of worship do not have a place. They are not without value. But they come out of a place of rejoicing in God’s work in and amongst us. They spring out of our love and work for justice alongside God. We build these thins knowing God works amongst us; bringing good news to the oppressed.
In the gospel of John, the baptiser is described as being that human who testifies to the light being amongst us.
John insists that the messiah is not still to come but is already amongst us.
The light is here.
Advent is often described as a time of waiting or preparation. It can seem like pleasure or celebration delayed. Living in anticipation. How does that work if Christ is already amongst us?
I find myself wondering if perhaps this season of Advent offers us a chance to shift our thinking or perspective. To reconsider how we are living so that we are better able to see just how God is alive and walking amongst us?
Perhaps by living in hope and finding peace in and amongst ourselves and rejoicing at the work God has already done and is doing we are better able to perceive how Christ is already there; already making a difference. Offering good news to the poor and the oppressed. Visiting the sick and the imprisoned.
It is not a question of waiting. We don’t need to wait for Christ to come. Christ is already here. We don’t need to wait for the church to swing open its doors; we are already worshipping and celebration. And Christ is already here.
This past year has been one we will not soon forget. It has been awful for a great many people. It has brought stress; heartbreak and anger. Many have experienced pain and anxiety. We have seen institutions and ways of life disrupted in ways we never could have imagined.
But we have also discovered new ways of being community. We have demonstrated our commitment to community and one another in new ways. And we have continued to gather as a community of faith. We have not lost sight of our connections to one another.
We can see God at work in all of this. Using us, strengthening us and working through us to bring good news to the oppressed. To visit the sick and the imprisoned.
So let us also rejoice at the knowledge that God, through Jesus the Christ is already amongst us. Let us express our joy and knowing we are God’s and God is with us. Amen
Rev. Warner Bloomfield
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