14Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! 15The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more. 16On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. 17The Lord, your God, is in your midst. (Zephaniah 3: 14-17a)
This past Sunday, Gaudete Sunday (“Rejoice”), our third candle on the Advent wreath was the candle of joy. I think that joy is hard for many of us to get our head around. We Western Christians spend a lot of time pursuing happiness. Our culture promises happiness if we will only…if we will only buy this or wear this or eat this or do this or go here or believe this way. Many of our churches promise that God will shower us in happiness and prosperity if we will only…if we will only pray this way and do this and believe this and be this. But happiness is elusive. Happiness is fleeting. Happiness is temporary. But joy…God desires not that we be happy but that we have joy. Joy is deep and abiding. Joy overcomes. Joy overpowers. Joy can exist in the midst of the darkness—perhaps even break through the darkness given the chance. Joy is found not in ourselves but beyond ourselves. Joy is not something we pursue; joy is there for us already.
In this Advent season, we look for the signs that we so desperately want to see that will confirm God’s Presence. But the signs are everywhere. Rejoice! Perhaps we are so busy trying to make our lives work out the way we want them to work out, to work out in the way that we think will bring us the most happiness, we are missing what is right in front of us. As we near that holiest of nights, as we prepare to light our candles and sign Silent Night, and, if even for one moment, to feel the joy again, we need to practice by opening our eyes to God who, even now, is in our midst.
We have ten more days. (Aaaaaggghhh!) OK, let’s try again. We have ten more days. Rejoice! The true joy of Christmas is that no matter what the darkness holds, no matter how all-encompassing it feels, no matter how many times our journey seems to lead us into quicksand, we are reminded that God comes into the tiniest of places and to the lowliest of spaces and claims them. God claims us. God claims you. How can you NOT rejoice? The celebration of Christmas reminds us that even though happiness is sometimes elusive, the joy of God-with-us settles into our soul and our minds and even our bones and stays. God does not just come once a year in that magical candle-lighting, Silent Night-moment. The Lord, your God, is in your midst. The darkness may still surround you, but Joy has come and claimed a home. Rejoice! Gaudete!
The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything. (Julian of Norwich)
FOR TODAY: Look around. God is in your midst. How can you NOT rejoice?
Grace and Peace,