Take Joy, Take Light

Scripture Text: Isaiah 12: 2-6 (Advent 3C)

2Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. 3With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted. 5Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. 6Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

We love this Psalm.  We love to say it.  We love to sing it.  It brings us joy.  It is our affirmation that we trust that God will save us, that we rely on that.  And we wait and watch for those lovely flowing waters of salvation.  The writer’s vision is one of liberation—to the exiles, to the world, to all of Creation, to us.  The destiny is clear.  God is walking us all toward salvation and that is indeed something about which everyone should be joyful. 

But what do we do in the meantime?  What do we do while we are waiting for the promised liberation or the prophesied salvation?  What do we do while we are waiting for our joy to kick in?  So, did we forget?  Did we forget what we believe—that God, the very Godself, the Creator, broke through all time and space and entered this world as a baby to become Emmanuel, God-With-Us?  So go back and re-read this Psalm with that in mind.

Notice that it says “God IS my salvation”—not God will be or God might be or God will come when we do something right.  God IS my salvation.  That’s pretty major.  The God who is in our midst is here to save us—not to see if we’re being good or doing right—just IS.  So, why aren’t we drawing water from those wells?  Those wells are everywhere, flowing with clean sparkling water.  We just have to get a bucket and draw out the water.  Maybe that’s it.  Maybe we don’t always have our bucket handy.  Maybe we’re so preoccupied with what we will be and the way things will turn out for us that we have neglected what God has given us to draw out water, to draw out joy, to draw out Light.

God created us in Joy.  God created us in Light.  God created us in water—lifegiving waters.  It’s all for the taking.  We are called to always go toward who we are meant to be, who God created us to be.  But the journey is here, filled with joy and light.  So take your bucket and draw out the waters.  Take joy.  Take Light.  It is yours.  God IS our salvation.  Take that too, for “great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel”—in your midst…

I salute you. I am your friend and my love for you goes deep. There is nothing I can give you which you have not got. But there is much, very much, that while I cannot give it, you can take. No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven! No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instance. Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. Take joy! Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty . . . that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven. Courage then to claim it, that is all! . . . And so I greet you, with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks and the shadows flee away. (From a letter by Fra Giovanni, 1513, as quoted in the introduction of “Take Joy”, by Tasha Tudor) 

Grace and Peace,


What’s In the Light

Scripture Text: Philippians 4:4-9 (Advent 3C)

4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

We’re used to language like this during Advent, wishes for joy and peace.  But sometimes they seem to be a little elusive.  I mean, how in the world do you rejoice always?  Sometimes things are just not worthy of rejoicing, right?  Our problem is that we often confuse happiness with joy.  Happiness is fleeting.  But joy is deep and abiding.  Joy is different.  Joy is what is in the Light.  Peace is what is in the Light.  They are part of that different Way.

The Philippians are dear to Paul.  They have been generous in supporting his ministry.  But there are numerous challenges to their faith.  Paul is concerned that the church might divide in the face of these conflicts.  There is also concern that the people are being subjected to alternative teachings that might pull them away from the teachings of Jesus.  So, Paul reminds them of the presence of Christ, reminds them of what they are a part.  It’s not a sappy, utopian call to be happy regardless of bad things are going for you.  Bad things happen.  It’s ok to be sad, melancholy, even angry.  Go ahead, throw a fit!  This is not a call to be happy; it is a call to rejoice.  Joy is what comes from knowing that indeed God is here with you, guiding you toward the Light.  It is a peace that surpasses any understanding that the world may have of what fills one’s life and makes it whole.

As we talked about before, God, the Light, is not “out there”.  It is here.  And this eternal peace and this peace that goes beyond all worldly understanding is IN that Light.  Could it be that when we actually embrace joy, actually live in peace, actually act in pure love, it is one of those flashes of Light we talked about before, bringing us closer to seeing the way we are called to see?  The Light is here.  Embracing joy, living in peace, acting in love is the way we know that.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  

Faith transforms the earth into a paradise.  By it our hearts are raised with the joy of our nearness to heaven.  Every moment reveals God to us.  Faith is our light in this life.   (Jean Pierre de Caussade) 

Grace and Peace,



joy14Sing 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,


Finding What You’ve Waited For

dancing-joy(ADVENT 3C)

4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4: 4-7)

Do you remember a couple of years ago when that “don’t worry, be happy” slogan was everywhere? I hated that, to be honest. It always seemed a bit sappy to me. Just forget your worries and be happy. Just forget all your cares and skip down the yellow brick road of life. Ok, see, even Dorothy (of Wizard of Oz fame) had some issues along that road. The Scripture doesn’t tell us not to worry so that we can be happy. The Scripture tells us to not let our worries consume us.

Our culture spends a great deal of time searching for happiness. We watch TV and we see sitcoms and commercials and now those strange reality TV shows with happy people giving us their own clues as to how to get happy like they are. It seems to be our goal in life. After all, what makes you happy? Are you happy when you are with friends or family? Are you happy when you are traveling, seeing parts of the world that you do not know? Are you happy when you are eating ice cream? Or at the beach? Or shopping? Or surrounded by beauty? But anyone will tell you that happiness is fleeting. It’s not the same as joy. Joy is deep and abiding. It exists in the deepest part of our being and rather than covering us up with a sort of pink cloud temporary existence, joys comes from within and fills us. Think about it. Most happy people will describe themselves as happy. But to say that one is filled with joy is different. Joy is being filled with that which surpasses all understanding. Joy is being filled with something that makes no sense and doesn’t have to.

So, here is Paul, probably writing from a prison cell. It would be odd for him to fill his letters with words that might convince his readers that he is happy. He is NOT happy. In fact, Paul is frustrated beyond belief. He wants to be out there doing the work that he is called to do, helping the fledgling congregations that he has barely gotten off the ground. But here he sits. No, Paul is NOT happy. This was not the plan. But beyond what the world understands, beyond what the world can even imagine, beyond any happiness that may come about, is joy. Rejoice in the Lord always. Happiness is fleeting. Joy breeds joy.

So, no matter what is going on, give thanks to God for your life. Give thanks to God for the life in Christ that you have. Let it fill your life. Do not let your worries consume you. Do not let them turn you into someone that you are not. When it’s all said and done, this WILL come out alright. That’s the whole promise. So, when life gets rough, when happiness seems to elude you, talk to God. Pray for peace. Don’t worry about praying that God will fix what is wrong. Just pray for peace to wash over you. Pray for joy to fill you. That’s all you need. Because there you find the heart and mind of Christ.

Think about it. Jesus was born into a waiting world, a world that was sure that all it needed was someone to fix its problems and put its adversaries in their proper place, a world that had figured out what it needed to make itself a happy place. But Jesus showed up on a dark night in a dingy stable in the middle of the poverty of the land and almost immediately began a life that would consist of evading the status quo and those in charge. And roughly 2,000 years later, the world is still not a happy place. So, perhaps this season is not about what makes us happy but rather what gives us reason to rejoice, what makes us whole and fills us and makes us who we are. For into the darkness, came Light and into our dying days came Life. Rejoice in the Lord always!  And, there, there you will find everything for which you’ve waited.

Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God. (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)


Grace and Peace,