Today we celebrate the third week of Advent. Our theme is Joy!
You may agree with me on this one. The first hymn that comes to mind -- Joy To the World! (Of course.) Many, many years ago, someone told me that this hymn is not about Jesus' birth, but about his second coming. (There's that word Parousia again.) I checked with Pastor Terry and he had not heard this before. So, we looked it up.
Isaac Watts took the words for the hymn from Psalm 98:4-9:
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
with the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who live in it.
Let the floods clap their hands;
let the hills sing together for joy
at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the people with equity.
I can see connections to both Jesus' birth and the second coming. The angels that greeted the shepherds spoke words of great joy, certainly. But the words of coming in judgment sounds like the second coming to me. Christians have a doctrine that ALL of creation will be redeemed at the second coming. Then, indeed, "all the earth" will sing with praise. That's a part of what is so wonderful about a life in Christ -- we can be joyful now and in the future!
On the other hand, this third week of Advent, the week of joy, brings pain to many people. Unfortunately, Christmas can be a source of pain and grief. Being reminded of joy may make the pain even worse. We are mindful of those in our midst and in our thoughts who see only a Blue Christmas this year. Few words can help. My prayer is for you to feel God's love and grace, if you cannot see joy.
Joy to the world, the Lord is come indeed. Let every heart prepare him room. That is what Advent is all about -- making room in our hearts once again for the Christ child.
O God our King, my joy comes for having you in my heart. My joy comes from knowing you are always with me. I pray for all those facing the opposite of joy today. May we all feel your loving embrace. Amen.