‘Tis the season! I suppose a call to rejoice at this time of year is not out of order. Buildings are gayly decorated. The spirit of advertisements is festive. The movies issued by streaming services fill the heart with good cheer. In my country, there are many seasonal preparations taking place – repainting and other repairs at home, charity drives to assist children’s homes or seniors’ homes – some might be expecting visitors. This year, your team might have made it to the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup so you’re in an even greater festive mood. A call to rejoice is well due!
These things give such temporary joy, don’t they? For once the Christmas season has ended, for some, once Christmas Day has come and gone, there’s not much to rejoice about. We return to our pre-seasonal activities. Why, in some cases, even the stores begin to revert to their year-round décor – the Christmas items are moved from the shelves (sometimes even before Christmas Day) – the decorations at home and at work are being stripped and no one is joyfully organising trips to the children’s or seniors’ homes. And, well, by 25 December, we will have long moved past the euphoria of our team winning the World Cup.
Once the haze of Christmas has cleared, we will return to our mundane considerations – the bills to be paid, returning to work after the holidays or vacation, and the emptiness of the home after the relatives have returned to theirs. There’s even an emptiness that hangs in the air after Christmas Day as we search for a new routine, as we reconnect with the familiar and banal routine. Before long, we ask ourselves, ‘What was it all for: the over-eating, the merrymaking, and the excitement?’
Turn now to the opening verse of the Lesson for this, the third week of Advent:
‘The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom’Isaiah 35:1
Verse 6 continues in a jubilant and triumphant tone:
‘Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;’Isaiah 35:6
Finally, the last verse of the reading, verse 10, seals the deal:
‘And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.’Isaiah 35:10
The joy suggested in these verses sounds far more lasting than the joy of the regular Christmas celebrations, don’t they? The psalm, Psalm 146:4-9, continues in a similar vein, celebrating the Lord who ‘loves the righteous’, ‘cares for the stranger’, ‘sustains the orphan and widow, but frustrates the way of the wicked.’
This sounds to me like a real cause for celebration! This sounds to me like a state that brings eternal joy. But none of these scenarios refers to the present and, if as in James 5:7-10, the Epistle, we’re told to be patient as the farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, why are we rejoicing? Between then and now, there are many more bouts of mundane and banal concerns to attend to, wouldn’t you say? I don’t know about you, but I don’t know. Only the Father knows about the day and hour.
Yet, I rejoice. I rejoice even though I don’t know when is that day that this earth which we roam will have ceased to produce sorrows from seeds which we have sown. I rejoice even though I hear the news that turns me away from tuning in. I rejoice notwithstanding the misfortunes of the world. I rejoice, not because of what I see or because I am disconnected from the suffering of the world, but I rejoice because of the hope that God continues to give me to persevere through my trials. I rejoice because God continues to feed me with good things (physical and spiritual). I rejoice because God is faithful and just. I rejoice because God sees us. I rejoice because God’s mercies endure forever. I rejoice because God’s word never returns to Him empty. I rejoice because those who trust God recognise that His ways and thoughts are higher than ours and so, all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose as we read in Romans 8. I rejoice, because, as difficult as the purpose journey is, God always places a song in my heart. I rejoice because God is indeed good and, I’ll say it again, His mercies endure forever.
Friends, purpose tries us. It tires us. It stretches us. At the same time, God revives us when we grow weary; God strengthens us when we are tried; God builds us as we are stretched. In this I rejoice.
Until next time, trusting that you too can rejoice, I bid you