Third Sunday in Advent - December 16th
Shout for joy! Sing joyfully! Cry out with joy! Rejoice! These passages echo the sense of joy that pervades the Advent season. It’s no surprise that the 1719 Isaac Watts hymn “Joy to the World” is one of the most popular this time of year. So what IS joy? The Oxford English Dictionary has this take: a vivid emotion of pleasure arising from a sense of well-being or satisfaction; outward rejoicing; a state of happiness or felicity, esp. the perfect bliss or beatitude of heaven; that which causes joy, or in which delight is taken; joyful adoring praise and thanksgiving. Joy is simultaneously the vivid emotion, the expression of that feeling, a state that approaches the bliss of heaven, the source of that delight, and the adoring praise of that source of delight. It is vivid, fulfilling, transcendent; it is deep within and yet other, worthy of adoration.
Today’s readings proclaim: God is in your midst; among you is the great and Holy One of Israel; the Lord is near! The sense of joy, the state of joy, the source of joy, is Immanuel: God with us – in the special way we celebrate in the Nativity, but also at all times, for all time, embracing us in everlasting arms of joy. So if we live in a state of joy, what is required of us? The Gospel reading tells us: clothe the naked, feed the hungry, treat each other well. Gandhi said, “Service which is rendered without joy helps neither the servant nor the served. But all other pleasures and possessions pale into nothingness before service which is rendered in a spirit of joy.” When we serve others in this spirit of joy, perhaps in the words of Isaac Watts, we “repeat the sounding joy.”
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