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This Sunday we’ll sing two hymns of Joy often used during Advent season, though not necessarily written for Christmas. Joy to the World actually refers to the joy of the second coming of Christ - not in a manger, but coming in power to reign with justice. Singing it together this week puts us in mind of the great work signified by the Incarnation – God’s redemptive work that’s complete apart from time, yet requires the fullness of time to be fully realized – once again reminding us that His work in the earth (and His work in us) is still unfolding.
Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee (popular during Advent and Easter, with its references to flowering creation) speaks in powerful metaphor of God’s work within the human heart and calls us into unity with creation and each other in joyful adoration. But we can’t sing about unity and joy in a way that’s tone deaf to divisions and tensions in our world and in our own lives. While pleasure might seek to exist apart from pain, joy for the believer – the kind that flows from His Spirit, is perhaps best understood in the midst of pain and longing. This joy is somehow able to attend to the sorrows and disappointments of life - to remain in the room when pleasure flees, because joy exists within us as a reflection of God’s presence. Just as the moon, by simply reflecting, brings us the light of the sun when we ourselves obscure it, so our joy endures the darkest of times – a simple sign of His nearness. This is the joy at the heart of Advent – the realization that He has come to us, He is with us.
I invite you this week to consider the ways in which joy has been your companion – perhaps even in times of suffering. And when we sing these songs together, let’s remember that we sing not only for ourselves, but also for those who cannot bring themselves to sing. We sing joy - and a sense of His nearness over the lives of our friends and family, over conflicts that seem hopeless, problems that seem too big, sickness that seems too deep, prayers that seem unheard. Together we reflect the truth of His goodness and sing joy into our world.
Peace and joy to your souls,