Blogging Towards Sunday December 14, 2008
The Third Sunday of Advent: JOY
This third week of Advent [resources] is traditionally known as the "JOY" Sunday, switching from the purple of Advent to pink for one week. [pink is created when mixing the purple of Advent and the white of Christmas].
The passages this week are about the joy of the coming of the Promised One to Ancient Israel captive in long-ago Babylon [Isaiah]. It's this promised one that will bring and be good news, healing the broken, freeing the captive, liberating the prisoner, these redeemed broken folks will be transformed into agents of God's power in creating a new heaven and new earth. Joy in the Psalm has to do with the living out of faith in community, similar to the community that the preacher in Thessalonians invites those that follow Jesus to live into and to act out of. John the Baptizer preaches to the diverse masses that go out to him inviting them, challenging to turn around 180 degrees in the way that they live, treat each other and act. He declares that the One to come is already present, standing among his audience and yet un-recognized. Both literal and metaphorical, it's a call to recognize that we are invited to a new way of being together and being towards each other in a radically inclusive and transformatively just community made possible by the Promised One of God and possible in him.
So the question that haunts me this week is joy. The scriptures point to the joy, the call to rejoice that God is doing a new thing, already present among us, even if we don't recognize the divine presence. Yet today joy seems the farthest thing from us. Where is the joy in urban life? Where is it for friends who had to have the police take their son into custody because he continues to steal and beat other kids up? Where is the joy for the teacher beat up by the parent of an expelled student? Where is the joy in the driver who flipped me off then blocked me driving down the road for no apparent reason today? Joy seems distant from daily moments or urban frustration, injustice and efforts to survive.
The opposite of joy seems to me to be despair, unescapable darkness that nothing can or will change, depression that we are forgotten, overlooked, duped. Yet the scriptures this week point to the fact that hope remains, that we often project our fears and doubts onto a faithful God, suspecting God of doing what we would do. Isn't that a joy, that God isn't what we expect? That God isn't like us? That God superceedes our fears, doubts and despair? Some might say that's merely wishful thinking on behalf of a manipulated proletariat, or that it's not scientifically provable. Yet a purely materialistic and/or scientific worldview merely points to the meaningless of human existence. I think that we make meaning of life through our choices: our actions, our relationships, the communities we commit to, the praxis of those communities living out the Truth that unites and defines them. Isn't that maybe the joy that we're invited to plant as the foundation of the way that we live, move and have our being in the 21st century world?