Rejoice in the Lord

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.

This is the traditional introit, or entrance, for the upcoming Third Sunday of Advent. And while we don't use that particular setting, this coming Sunday is the Sunday of joy and rejoicing.

The first lesson is from Isaiah and gives us an image of the desert rejoicing and blooming. The prophet speaks of the blind seeing and the deaf hearing, of the lame leaping and the speechless singing. He closes out his image by saying that everlasting joy shall be upon their heads.

The Psalm gives us an image of justice, food, and freedom given to those who are oppressed, hungry, and imprisoned.

And in the gospel, Jesus tells John's disciples to report that the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, and the dead are raised.

So just what is joy? There are a lot of definitions out there, but joy has a particular meaning when tied to our faith. First of all, joy is not happiness. Happiness is an emotion, or a feeling of pleasure, with which we are all familiar, usually coming from receiving something we want or have worked for. I want my team to win and am happy when they do so. I want a new car and am happy when I'm able to make that purchase. The examples are limitless. But joy is different.

Joy comes from receiving the unexpected. In the story of the Prodigal Son, joy and rejoicing come from the unexpected return of the son. In the examples above from the upcoming readings, joy comes to those who are on the margins when they are returned to fullness. In our Christian faith, we should be in a constant state of joy over the unexpected gifts of the Incarnation and Resurrection.

That's not to say we won't have periods of deep sadness or anger or any other negative emotion/experience, because we will. I'm reminded of the final line of the last burial anthem on page 491 of the BCP: So, then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's possession. That is joy – to remember that in life and death, in good times and in bad, we are the Lord's possession.

As we continue our Advent journey, as we continue to prepare for the already and the not yet, let us reflect on what God has unexpectedly given us in these dual gifts of Incarnation and Resurrection, and let us live joyfully in the Lord.



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