We shall “come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon (our) heads; (we) shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

There shall be “everlasting joy upon our heads!” Joy, I tell you, is what we are getting ready for. Did you ever notice that the hymn “Joy to the World” is placed right on the dividing line between the Advent and Christmas sections of the hymns in our hymnals? To me, this hymn sounds like pure Christmas. Yet, I suppose that even when we come to Christmas, we are celebrating that God has already granted the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ for the redemption of the world, even as we look with expectancy – expectation – for the second coming of our Savior and the time when all the hard work of redemption being sorted out through time and the universe will be complete. The haunt of the jackal will be no more, and we will travel a simpler road, praising God in song and with safety. Yet for now, we live an existence in life and soul that resides in the dividing line – the place between getting ready for the ultimate joy that has been completed by God’s great love and the Advent time of this world’s current existence, before God’s redeeming work is seen and known in its completeness.

So, shall “come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon (our) heads; (we) shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

Today, the third Sunday in Advent is often referred to as the Sunday of “joy.” On this Advent journey to Christmas, we have been reminding ourselves and each other of God’s call to us to live a new life, a life known to be blessed in light of the redemption story God is about to begin, with the birth of the infant Christ. Turn from the things that distract us and allow God to be our only distraction. The mood of Advent is expectant but also instructive and introspective in that Advent as a season seeks to give us space in which to learn once and for a hundred thousand times that we have been claimed in love by God for the purpose of worshipping and praising God in all that we do, with any and all of the hats that we wear in this life. And on this third Sunday of Advent, we are nudged by our readings and by the pink candle that is different than its blue sibling candles; we are nudged to remember not to be downcast on this journey towards Christmas.

Yes, we are witnesses to all that is broken in ourselves and in the world, and getting ready to welcome the birth of Christ, the birth of eternal perfection, can’t help but make us even more painfully aware of all that is so far from perfect in ourselves and all that is around us. Yet this third Sunday of Advent, this “joy” Sunday, reminds us to focus on the destination towards which we are traveling. Not on the dryness of the desert areas of our beings and this chunk of world history through which we are living, but on the waters of life in which God in Christ has claimed us. Wade in Water, and know that you have been redeemed and that with God’s help we will be brought once again to meet the Christ child – that we might on bended knee adore God’s work of light, and know that we are not alone in the night-time spaces of this world and our lives.

Yes, we are moving from the time of John the Baptist in our Church Year to the time of immanent expectation of the Christ’s birth, a time when we might catch our toes tapping (and not just because of the music!), but because of the bubbling up, the rising of the tide of joy – soon, so soon my siblings in Christ, that little Christ child will be born.

For you.
For me.
For this world with all of her deserts and all of her golden potential.

John wrote from prison to ask Jesus if he was indeed the coming Messiah. Jesus’ response is to say read the signs and know that indeed, I am the Messiah. John the Baptist would come to know that Jesu had arrived, and we, too, are being welcomed to receive this letter of the good word; this good news that the signs continue to point towards the God who will time and again be born in and for love and for the sake of claiming this love and in redemption that is both already complete, and only at the dawn of its beginning.

So, we wait, and we prepare. And we do so with joy!