Zephaniah 3: 14-18
Psalm: Isaiah 12: 2-6
Philippians 4: 4-7
Luke 3: 10-18
Written by Luanne Wilhelm, SLW
This is what our SLW direction statement says is ours.
It’s all of ours.
Not just joy, but revitalized joy. This is what this week, indeed all of Advent, is about: Joy.
Notice in both the first and second readings from the prophet Zephaniah and Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we are told to rejoice. This is a demand. It’s not an option or an invitation but a demand. I believe we are being told this because joy is at the core of who we are as people of God. It’s a gift we’ve been given and a gift we are called to share. But wait, you say, not everyone is experiencing joy so not everyone has any to share.
All people of God have joy. Even Paul while sitting in prison and Zephaniah living in an oppressive society, can talk about joy and gladness. They know that God dwells with them and showers love on them no matter what. Psalm 119 in Nan Merrill’s translation in “Psalms for Praying” says it well. “You have prepared a garden for us, a garden of joy hidden in our hearts. O Friends, enter into this eternal garden, befriend the Guide who awaits you…be still and know true peace.”
Enter into this garden. We need to ask for the grace to open our hearts to receive the gifts of this garden, especially the gift of joy. It takes work and it takes prayer. On this third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday) we celebrate not only the joy that is ours but the revitalized joy that comes when we ask and are open to receive. One of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver, finds joy in so many ordinary places. In one of her poems, “Just Lying on the Grass at Blackwater” she tells us “even silence can feel, to the world, like happiness, like praise.”
What does a person do with this gift of joy besides experience it? Our gospel today gives us answers. By giving to the poor and marginalized we share our joy. If we, like Zephaniah and Paul, know that God dwells with all people and shares love in abundance, and if we truly let this reality sink into our consciousness, we can do nothing else but be overwhelmed with joy.
May you find this joy in many and small ways so that you can share it with others.