Advent and the lighting of the candle of joy

Sing, Daughter Zion;
shout aloud, Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
Daughter Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away your punishment,
he has turned back your enemy.
The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you;
never again will you fear any harm.
On that day
they will say to Jerusalem,
“Do not fear, Zion;
do not let your hands hang limp.
The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”

“I will remove from you
all who mourn over the loss of your appointed festivals,
which is a burden and reproach for you.
At that time I will deal
with all who oppressed you.
I will rescue the lame;
I will gather the exiles.
I will give them praise and honor
in every land where they have suffered shame.
At that time I will gather you;
at that time I will bring you home.
I will give you honor and praise
among all the peoples of the earth
when I restore your fortunes
before your very eyes,”
says the Lord.

Zephaniah 3:14-20

Yesterday, I lit the pink (the rest are purple) Advent candle of joy. And Deb and I read together out loud this passage from Zephaniah. Father Michael in his sermon spoke on the joy which we can experience now, as well as anticipate as we both look back and look forward to the coming of the Lord– King Jesus. (The passages along with this one: Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:7-18).

Father Michael dwelt at some length on the problem of worry/anxiety, which as much as anything else can lead to sin, and can steal our joy. One can see that in this passage in Zephaniah. It seems that God’s very presence is what is needed to quell our fears, the God who both saves and restores, and in great love and delight, rejoices over us with singing.

I for one know what it’s like to be overcome with anxiety and fear so that worry can set in. Actually I am not as plagued that way as I used to be. But necessary issues of life, and the decisions those can involve can press in on one to the point that God can seem largely out of the picture. Of course we should be praying about everything, as we’re told in Philippians 4:4-7.

An important key, I think, to being able to rejoice is to be in the presence of the God who rejoices over us. No matter what else happens, that is the case. So that we can learn to rest in God’s love, and experience the peace which transcends all understanding and guards our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. Certainly a tall order for any day, some would say particularly today. But just as certainly, assured in the blessed assurace that is ours in God in and through King Jesus.

And so we can know something, hopefully more and more of the joy that God has over us. We can respond with joy over God, and over God’s love and delight over us. Philippians tells us again and again that we’re to rejoice in the Lord. That is an act of faith, apart from our feelings or experience. We simply do it, but we do it based on the truth, based on God himself. And the promise of the coming of the King, Jesus, who will take care of everything, even now being present with us: God-with-us, to see us through in spite of whatever else, to the very end.


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