Isaiah 35:1-6, 10
‘They will come … shouting for joy,everlasting joy on their faces;joy and gladness will go with themand sorrow and lament be ended.’ (Isaiah 35:10)
As we move into the second half of Advent, the tone of our liturgical season changes. Gone are the dark readings about judgment we heard in the past couple of weeks – today we are presented with more cheerful readings to remind us that the only cause of lasting joy is ultimately God himself. In a similar way, purple, the colour used by the Church to symbolise penitence and contrition is replaced by a lighter, more cheerful colour – by rose. This brighter, livelier colour invites us to shake off any gloom around us and to turn our eyes with confidence and courage towards the coming days – rose reminds that in all things we ought to be rejoicing because our salvation is ever nearer at hand.
As our Christmas celebrations approach we should remind ourselves of the lasting joy Jesus came to bring. On that holy day the child of Bethlehem revealed himself as the fulfilment of Isaiah’s words we read this morning, ‘Look, your God is coming’. On that holy day our salvation became more visible; heaven and earth appeared as one; and from then on the mercy of our God began to walk among us, freeing us from evil and from fear. On the holy day God became one of us and suddenly we were not lonely anymore in the universe. God revealed himself in our humanity, so that he could be in among us in a very real, tangible way, for ever. These are the reasons why, as Christians, we should rejoice, not matter what we may be going through.
But I say more. The causes of our joy are not just past events, they are also borne out of our present experience of faith and about our confidence in the future. We rejoice because since his first coming Jesus remains present in our midst concealed within the Eucharist, and from there he gives himself to us in a constant and selfless act of love. In this sacrament he still gives himself as a token of his victory over everything that would scare and oppress us, until the day when he will gather us into his kingdom, and as we read, ‘sorrow and lament will be ended’.
If we look closely to our first reading, Isaiah tells us quite plainly what the people of God should look like.
‘They will come … shouting for joy,everlasting joy on their faces;joy and gladness will go with themand sorrow and lament be ended.’
Rejoicing in the Lord; delighting in the plan of salvation God reveals to us in Jesus Christ; taking pleasure in God dwelling among us… as I said a couple of Sundays ago, these worthy sentiments should be the hallmark of the Christian life, the natural response to what God has done, and does, for us. But on this point we must be honest; we are not always joyful in our faith, are we? We are not always rejoicing in knowing Christ. And, even though we call ourselves Christians, all too often we let our joy be conditioned by the things we may or may not possess, by what others may think of us, and by the fun we could have if only we… I’ll let you finish this sentence for yourself.
So, mindful of the great salvation that awaits us, let us use the last days of Advent to lay aside any gloom, fear, and fleeting cause of joy. And let us ask God to rekindle in us (and in our loved ones) that true joy, that true happiness, which comes from knowing Jesus, so that we may be ready to greet him when he comes again.