By Sharon Wilson
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. ~ Isaiah 35:10
The third Sunday of Advent is represented by the pink candle on the Advent wreath and represents the expression of JOY! What a wonderful time to be reminded of joy as we are experiencing the darkest days of winter. Our readings today help us to consider the signs of our salvation. They foresee the birth of Christ that we are awaiting and the fullness of our salvation history. Isn’t it strange that as we await this Christ child’s birth, we are reminded of this complicated connection between his birth and death?
This is a very complicated week for me. Last year, at this time, my husband went on hospice after two years of a difficult illness and a decline in his health. One of the first things he did after accepting this harsh news was to plan something unexpected.
Joy and Sorrow
He didn’t wallow in this death sentence; he instead decided he wanted a big party where he could see all his friends. We chose to do this quickly after his release from the hospital while he had some strength. We are blessed with friends who own a funeral home, and they offered the space at the funeral home for Dave’s “living wake.” This day became a connection between joy and sorrow. Not knowing how many people would come, but ever the host, Dave, planned the menu, and our children and I got busy pulling together a social media invite and a party in three days.
I look at this picture on the day when hundreds of people came to visit him on that Sunday of Advent last year. Faced with his imminent death, he brought joy to others. He laughed, told stories, and exhausted himself.
It amazes me to think that, knowing his time on this earth was short, he somehow not only found the courage to meet with others and comfort them, but he found joy in it.
Only by knowing and believing in God’s story of Salvation could anyone face their own mortality and still smile, laugh, and play. Of course, his joy that day didn’t mean he had no fear or doubts, but even having a bit of that joy at his living wake helped him (and all of us) make it through the weeks he had left until he passed and sustained us after.
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. Isaiah 35:10
Joy has been hard to come by in the months since his death. I struggle with my faith; I move through the stages of mourning over and over, and I grasp onto moments with him that help me to make it through.
Joy doesn’t seem like it is mine to have right now, but through grieving him, recognizing his faith and courage, and knowing that great love brings sorrow, I know that joy is waiting for me through the mourning and will be there for me in the morning.
As we wait patiently for the birth of Christ, knowing that the passion is the culmination of the story of his birth, reflect on a manger scene. Notice the wood of His cradle and reflect on the wood of the cross. Bring to God the crosses you bear and leave them at that manger scene, for even as a child, Christ brought us salvation.
Call to Action
Before you go to sleep tonight, take a problem or worry that has kept you from Joy and place it in God’s hands. Change the narrative in your mind from “what if such and such happens…?” To “Even if such and such happens…” Then give it to God and go to bed. Joy comes in the morning.
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