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What brings you joy? Joy isn’t just happiness, it’s an intensive contentment, seemingly a burst, suddenly appearing, possibly unexpected, definitely all-encompassing. How is God a joy-maker in your live, in our life together? Our scriptures today on this third Sunday of Advent seem funny when associated with that theme.
Isaiah is the prophet who speaks to the people at the time of their defeat, destruction and genocidal exile during the Babylonian Empire. The prophet writes poetry that aims to articulate the way in which God is in fact at work among, with and for them: surprising, complete, unexpected and possibly unwelcome (as it can easily be inconvenient or uncomfortable). The passage points to a movement of great reversal beginning with one individual, spreading to a people defined by loss, to include all of the world. The word “nations” in Hebrew refers to all the peoples that are not Jewish. In a sense it’s “everyone else” who has not yet been identified with this unexpected and surprising God. This dramatic reversal of fortune will not only demonstrate the power and person of God to all peoples of the world, it will bring forth a response of justice, righteousness and praise. In Verse 8 God asserts “I the LORD love justice” – this world transforming justice reminds me of the feeding of the 5,000 where the meager lunch of one person is used to feed the multitudes and reverse hearts and minds.
The gospel of John begins with the majestic hymn retelling the creation of the world through the word and person of Jesus. In its beginning it echoes the words of Genesis 1:1, and the grows to depict Jesus as the long promised one, testifying to the truth of that through the eyewitness of the author. Our selection focuses on John the Baptizer: the one who testified to Jesus’ coming. When asked if he was the Messiah, or about the Messiah; John responds negatively. All of the Jewish leaders and diverse leadership does not know what to look for. They seem unable to recognize the Messiah who is to come. In the rest of the story we see that they are unable or unwilling to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. In a sense eyes cannot see a God who is surprising, unexpected, inconvenient, uncomfortable and thus unwelcome. In this spiritual obscurity it is the recognition of the presence and purpose of God that brings true joy.
Questions for going deeper: