Joy – today? in our world?

JOY.  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:3).”

         Week 3 of Advent, named Gaudete Sunday back in the fourth or fifth century, shifts the Advent theme from prophecy/hope and peace to rejoicing.  Advent is a time of waiting, of waiting for the return of Christ, of waiting in our humanness for hope, peace, joy and love to develop in our character – or the other’s!  It is a time of waiting for Christmas in the midst of a pandemic and political angst.  It is not that different than the first Christmas with Rome’s harsh enslavement of the Jews, Herod’s paranoia of a prophecy of a new king, and Joseph and Mary living with a questionable pregnancy traveling.  Many of us wish we were traveling and are dealing with the grief of separation of family at this important time, the time of birth. 

         Advent 3 signals that we are halfway through the Advent season and focuses us on the promised redemption.  (I am tempted to post Michael Jackson’s YouTube song, We’re Almost There, 1975.  The lyrics start, “No matter how hard the task may seem, don’t give up our plans, don’t give up our dreams. No broken bridges can turn us around, ‘cause what we’re searchin’ for will soon be found.  Cause we’re almost there just one more step.  Cause we’re almost there, just one more step.  Just one more step, don’t give up, Cause we’re almost all almost there.  Cause we’re almost there.”)  Joy is a shift of our focus from the prophecy of those ancestor who came before and persevered in similar trials to today, shifts our focus from the conditions of our world that drive our hearts to plead for peace, and shifts our focus to God.  The Living Bible, a modern translation, phrases Philippians 4: 4-6 this way, “Always be full of joy in the Lord; I say it again, rejoice!  Let everyone see that you are unselfish and considerate in all you do.  Remember that the Lord is coming soon.  Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers.”

         The Christmas story is embedded and fleshed out in the lives of people living in a world as confusing as ours.  We will look at those stories found in the four gospels this week but to prepare our hearts, may I suggest we take a moment to write a brief list of what weighs our hearts down right now.  A second column might list possible resolution, answers.  Some of the situations cannot be resolved with vaccinations or environmental controls, or zoom meetings.  Where would you like to see God’s hand working in your life this Christmas?  Make your list and check it twice, then offer it up in prayer with thanksgiving. He is present, listening and is able: joy!

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