Traditionally, the 3rd Sunday in Advent is the Sunday of Joy – were you feeling it yesterday? Today’s reading says “the people of Israel, the priests and the Levites, the rest of the returned exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy.” Of course they did! They’d been exiles, but have been brought home. They live free again in their own homeland. They’ve even succeeded in rebuilding the holy temple of God’s holy city. Of course there’s JOY!
And I expect there was also some weeping: At the memory of all that Jerusalem once had been and how much rebuilding still needed to be done. At the thought of those who’d lived in that land before and were not with those who returned. It was a glorious restoration from the pain of exile, but it didn’t make anyone forget the pain of the exile.
This season for us can be full of conflicting emotions as well – Joy at the beauty of the story, the songs, the gatherings. Grief for those who gather with us no longer, for places we can no longer return to, for traditions that aren’t continued today.
With mixed emotions, the returned Israelites worshipped in the temple. With mixed emotions, we light another candle and sing another carol. While we do it, we trust that the day is surely coming when, through Christ, our joy shall be complete, and by the powerful goodness of our God, “mourning and crying and pain will be no more” (Rev. 21:5). With trust like that, we can indeed sing for joy.
“Joyful, joyful, we adore you, God of glory, Lord of love!” Thank you for loving us before we loved you. Thank you for being our first home, our true place of worship, and the only song we ever need to sing. Amen.
The Rev. Hope E. A. Molozaiy is the pastor of The Community Church of Richmond, United Church of Christ, in Richmond, IL, and always a mom.
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