Advent 3: Joy - Reflections 12-13-20

December 13, 2020
Third Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
John 1:6-8, 19-28

The theme of the Third Sunday of Advent is joy.
Some Advent wreaths light a pink candle for this Sunday to represent this joy.

We spend our Advent days longing for Jesus to come.
We get impatient waiting for God’s time and purpose.

And so, this moment in Advent, this third Sunday, arrives to tell us to hang on – joy is coming soon.

But not right away. We still need to do some waiting.

The Isaiah text is aimed at discouraged people whose life has changed after years of exile. It offers a reminder of what is to come - a garland instead of ashes, becoming the oaks of righteousness who display God’s glory. God gives them the promise of restoration and salvation. God gives them hope.

In Psalm 126, the restoration God will give isn’t reality yet. But the promise of joy is there and they will soon sing songs of joy.

The first words from the 1 Thessalonians 
reading are Rejoice always. They begin a “to-do” list of preparation for the second coming of Christ – hold fast to what is good.

The gospel reading from John introduces John the prophet who was sent by God before Jesus to prepare the way, to testify that the Light of the World was coming. “No” he says “I am not the Messiah or Elijah, or the prophet”. John points to the salvation that is coming soon.

One other thing the Isaiah text tells us is to expect good news for the oppressed, healing for the brokenhearted, liberty and release to prisoners, a time of restoration and reparation. We are called to celebrate these gifts of Christmas. Joy to the world, the Lord has come, the Lord is coming. Let earth rejoice.

From 1 Thessalonians: The one who calls you is faithful and he will do this.

A note:
I am struck by how these verses reflect our current communal life. All of us have been longing for COVID19 to be over.

I know that I am tired of COVID, I am tired of people dying of COVID, I am tired of  people disregarding guidelines which could diminish the spread of the virus. I am horrified by what we are doing to all those working in hospitals who face overwhelming caseloads.

We have been impatient – some really impatient – waiting for researchers and vaccine developers to complete their job. This weekend we received the word to hang on, the vaccine is coming. The promise brings hope and joy. But we still need to do some waiting…. 

What do you think we can learn from these two experiences? Where do you see connections? What might be God's call?

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Iowa City, IA 52245