Scripture for this Sunday:
Isaiah 35.1–10; Psalm 146.4-9; James 5.7–10; Matthew 11.2–11
Our Advent journey took in a special point of interest this week as we celebrated a diamond wedding anniversary. It’s appropriate, really, because the third Sunday of Advent is about joy, and the anniversary is a joyful occasion.
A long-term marriage requires a certain degree of patience, which is something mentioned in the letter of James – and whatever trials and tribulations people in long term marriages may have experienced, they have shared them.
In fact, one of the traits of a long-term marriage is the opportunity for sharing – and sharing brings with it joy. It seems clear that in the early Christian community there was joy in the experience of sharing. This is also part of the prophetic writings.
Thus it is sad that a characteristic of modern culture is self-oriented possession – which leads to hubris and pride, which are not very good ingredients for joyful living. What a pity that our culture has become so self-oriented that we seem to be to a large extent stuck in the same state as children in early childhood with their siblings. Apparently my stepdaughter was totally besotted with her little brother until he learned to say, “No,” and, “Mine!” And “Mine” has become a hallmark of our times. Yet sharing is an intrinsic part of successful communal living.
So when we encounter beauty, or tranquillity, or delight in some aspect of creation, it is joyful to be able to share the experience. And even when there is no other human being presence, there is still someone with whom we can share – always remembering that the one with whom we can share our delight is the one who created it all in the first place – and who delights in sharing with us.
Sadly, we often miss what is being shared through impatience – forgetting the prophetic messages about patience and waiting – as the people of Israel had to endure several generations of exile before the prophetic message of return was fulfilled. Waiting can be frustrating at times – as John the Baptist learned, waiting in prison for his fate to unravel. He sent messages to ask Jesus, “Are you the one?” Which suggests that he must have wondered whether he himself was on the right track. He was, of course, but did not live to witness his vindication in this life – there was the darkness of his own death, and that of Jesus, to endure before the light of Christ shone through.
Our Advent road map includes deepening our faith, which will help us to be patient in discerning God’s purpose and waiting for its fulfilment; focusing on finding truth, which may take time and the willingness to look around and see what God has revealed to us in creation; pastoral care for one another, which leads us towards sharing, which is also an ingredient in striving to deepen our relationships and finding unity.
In the end, there was joy for the people of Israel returning to their promised land. In the end, there was joy for the followers of John who were able to witness his vindication – even though they had to pass through the darkness of the beheading of John and the crucifixion of Jesus to experience the light of Christ. In the end, there will be joy for those who patiently work for Christ’s kingdom of justice and peace.
Although there may be dark evenings in life, the light of joy will ultimately be revealed – and along the way there are joyful milestones, like long-term marriage anniversaries, to celebrate!