Third Sunday of Advent: December 4th, 2016
The Advent Wreath
On the Third Sunday of Advent, the rose-colored candle is placed on the wreath. This is the candle of JOY. It reminds us that when Jesus is born in us we have joy, and that through Him there will be everlasting joy on Earth.
REFLECTION: (adapted from Sarah Bessey)
Here is the thing with Christian joy: it isn’t stupid.
Joy isn’t emotionally or spiritually or intellectually dishonest. Christian joy doesn’t mean that we are sticking our heads in the sand and saying, “it’s fine, we’re fine, everything’s fine” while running past the gutter of broken dreams, eyes averted.
Joy isn’t denial of grief or pretending happiness.
Joy is the affirmation of the truest thing in this life.
Joy is born, not from pretending everything is fine, but from holding both hope and truth together. The Christian can stand in that liminal space, the place of grief, even there with joy. Why? Because joy is the affirmation of the thing that is truer than any trouble, any affliction: the affirmation that Love wins. Jesus is as good as we hope, it’s all worth it, and all will be redeemed.
Almost all of our theology – and therefore our practical lives – has its roots in what we believe about the nature and character of God. It all tracks back. And really, if we want to know what God looks like, we can look to Jesus. That’s what the Bible tells us. Jesus was meant to clarify, to answer the questions, to clean up the dirty window through which we kept trying to behold the holy. Hebrews 1:3 states that Jesus is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.”
So I didn’t learn how to practice joy until I learned to practice grief, and I didn’t learn how to do either one of those things well until I learned that God can be trusted.
Jesus is as good as we hope, and everything for which you are longing – love, joy, peace, justice, mercy, home, good work – is real because it rooted in God’s heart for us. Those are gifts from a good good Father. God is against the evil and suffering in this world. He is not the origin of evil nor does God “use” evil as a means to justify some cosmic end.
I couldn’t trust God if I suspected God was behind our deepest griefs and injustices. This is where the sovereignty conversations get interesting, I know. But I don’t blame God for much anymore. I see God as the rescue from the injustices, not the cause of them. I see God as the redeemer of the pain, not the origin of it. I see sovereignty, not as hyper-control over the minute and painful details of the world, but as a faithful promise that all things will be restored, all things will be redeemed, all will be rescued.
So as the people of God, the ones whose citizenship lies in the Kingdom of God, we are part of the resistance, the overcoming of them, the redemption and hope in the midst of them because they are the antithesis of the character of God. Why? Because THAT is God’s heart. That is God’s nature.
Sovereignty is a promise – not a threat or a reason. All will be held and that God is at work to bring redemption and reconciliation, and at the end of all things, we don’t escape from the goodness that pursues us, the life we are promised, the love that redeems.
Joy is born out of trust and hope and gratitude and faith in that coming Kingdom. We have a reason to rejoice. And it’s not denial or innocence or naivety or stupidity. Joy is the affirmation of the truest thing of all: redemption, restoration, reconciliation.
The joy of the Lord is rooted in the now and the not-yet of the Kingdom of God.
When Christ returns and sets all things right and heaven is established on earth, there will be no more tears, no more sorrows, no more good-byes. The kingdom will be a reunion, a shocking and wild oh-hallelujah-at-last gathering. The castoffs of our world – those whom our culture disdains and discards and disappoints and devastates – will lead the laughter and the dance. Part of our worship must be wiping the tears from every face, the labour of drawing buckets from the well of salvation to water the tired soil into renewal.
It’s messages of joy and open gates to welcome our children coming home from war, their swords forgotten, assault rifles discarded. It’s a rich harvest of exiles gathered from all the nations, refugees finding home, weapons are beaten into ploughshares, we’re not fighting anymore, we’re farming.
This is the world we are prophesying with our very lives.
Our joy is rooted in this hope and in this confidence: our Abba is steadily putting things right. God will not tire, God hasn’t fallen asleep on the job, and God will not quit. Jesus has not forgotten you. We are a people of life, not death.
Our joy is rooted in truth and that truth is the nature and character of God. Whatever we face, joy is the truest thing and this is not the end.
May your joy overflow.