Isaiah 61: 1-2a, 10-11 – 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-24 – John 1: 6-819-28
Like many things that happen at this time of the year, whether out of tradition or routine, what we hear in the Scripture passage that are an important part of our worship, does not take into account what is happening in our world at the present time. So, in the middle of what we are experiencing from the world-wide pandemic – illness and even death, economic hardship, limitations, inconveniences – we hear Isaiah and St. Paul speak of joy and tell us to rejoice. Can we feel joy? Can we rejoice?
It is helpful to understand what is meant by “joy.” particularly in this context. Joy is not a superficial or external happiness or giddiness. Rather, it is a deep, inner sense of peace and contentment with self, with the world that is around us, and with God. Such joy requires a genuine honesty as well as gratitude.
Even in what we longingly recall as “normal” times, such joy often escaped us. For the most part this is because we allow ourselves to be anxious too much, to worry too much, about ourselves and about others. Such a reason is now all the more amplified. At times there are choices that we can make to change or lessen what causes this anxiety. More often, however, this is not the case. We have no ability to change or remove what brings on our anxiety.
As persons of faith in God, faith in Jesus Christ, we ought to be different. We are able to hear “rejoice” even in the midst of everything that surrounds us because of the genuine conviction of that faith and trust in a loving God. After al, it is the conviction of that faith that has gathered us here today.
We are presented with a fitting example today in the person of John the Baptist. He is an individual convinced of his faith and his mission. We heard how John was interrogated about who he was and what he was doing. He is quite clear and direct in his responses. He is not someone else, Elijah or one of the other prophets. He is not the Messiah. He cannot even untie the strap of the Messiah’s sandal. He is himself, the one preparing the way by preaching conversion, change of heart and baptism. The conviction of his faith, the peace and contentment of joy on his life, was apparent even to the point of losing that life.
We can rejoice as St. Paul exhorts us, as well as the Thessalonians. We can pray without ceasing. We can always give thanks. We can do so because this expresses the conviction of our faith. Like the light o the Advent wreath, like the lights illuminating the parish grounds, the light of the presence of Christ is gradually increasing. In the midst of the darkness of this world and of our lives the light of Christ is gradually being made more evident. This is our conviction. This is our faith. This is what we celebrate at this time of the year.
We are called upon to rejoice in the hope and in the promise that is founded on the confidence of our faith in a good and gracious God