Lectionary Reflection for the Third Sunday of Advent, Year C
December 13, 2015
Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. Isaiah 12:2-3
It’s been a tough few weeks in our beautiful and broken world: refugees, violence, mass shootings, suicide bombers, protests, vitriolic and vexing political rhetoric, and then some. Unless you’ve been completely off the grid, you’ve seen, heard, and read enough to make your stomach churn. Perhaps you’ve found yourself altogether numbed by the sheer amount of despair and nastiness all around. For many of us, it’s been difficult to focus on this season of holy preparation when all around us the world seems to be crumbling.
And yet, here we wait in expectation for the Advent of our Prince of Peace. We are expecting and hoping for something unexpected, a new way, a brighter day, a more hopeful horizon. What’s a disciple to do?
Look no further than your friendly Year C Revised Common Lectionary for instruction, instigation, irritation, and inspiration. From prophetic words of hope and warning to Paul’s lovingly penned letter to the Philippians, there are multiple pathways to bring the brokenhearted and the disillusioned back from the edges of lament and disdain to a place of centeredness and possibility.
This third Sunday of Advent brings us to the turning point, reminding us to continue to raise our heads, remember from whence our help comes, roll up our sleeves, turn from that which separates us from God, and feast on a heaping helping of hope and joy. Yes, even as we here in the Northern Hemisphere plunge into the darkest days and longest nights of the year, the great narrative of God’s interaction with all of creation shows us a different vision and a hope-filled future. Sure, there’s work to do, and the road ahead looks more like a climb up Mt. Everest than a speedy cruise down a four-lane highway: evil is real, sin is still very much with us, and there’s a lot wrong in world.
We have access to the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We know what God requires of us. We have the prophets’ bold proclamation and the witness of our Lord and the strong foundation of the saints in light who have come before us. We have the Spirit-power to help usher in the reign of God that has already defeated the claims of evil and oppression and the vain threats of death and doom. We have amazing good news. Our cups overflow with mercy, goodness, and JOY.
On this third Sunday of Advent, celebrate the JOY, be a steward of JOY. Dip not just the tip of your finger in the font, but rather splash your face and be reminded of your baptism. Give thanks to God with song and praise and prayer. Rejoice in the Lord. And then do it some more. Be prodigal and lavish with this gift of joy. God is doing a new thing, again and again and again.
And you, dear friend and fellow disciple of Christ, are part of the plan. So go ahead and rejoice in the face of all that ails this world. Lift your heads high and shout for joy. Christ is coming. His advent draws nigh. No need to be miserly and stingy with the good news. We can afford to spend time rejoicing in our Lord.
Consider singing “Joy to the World” as an act of defiance, hope, and joy in the midst of a troubled and uncertain cultural landscape. You might weave the verses into your sermon. Many of our congregants could use a measure of joy right about now.
It’s been three years since the Sandy Hook shootings. Some of your youth may be old enough to remember it. Others will have seen images and been told about it. Violence and violent images are the order of the day in most news casts. Consider using the Zephaniah lesson to talk about what was happening in the lives of God’s people then and now. How can this lesson inform our behaviors? How can the words of the prophet give us hope? What links do you find to John the Baptist’s responses to the crowds, the tax collectors, and soldiers?
Spread some Joy! Share with children the story of “Gaudete” Sunday and how we can use some joy as the nights draw toward the longest night on December 22. Create small business cards or buy some craft gift cards with ribbon. Either write “JOY” on them or use a stamp. You could write Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” And “Jesus loves you, and do I.” on the other side of the gift tag or card. If you make up business cards, you can include your church information and Christmas service times on them. Invite the children to share a little joy with others by giving out the cards to people they think need a little more love and joy in their lives.
Photos: Dmitry Kichenko, Akio Takemoto, and mark Oakley, Creative Commons. Thanks!