The readings over the last two weekends have told us the to watch and to be hopeful. This weekend as we light the rose candle of the third week of advent our readings tell us to be joyful.
The first reading from Isaiah is written as God’s people come back to their land after a long period of exile. We can probably identify with how they are feeling as we too are experiencing a period of exile as we deal with conditions with the pandemic. While they are back home there is still political unrest, there is separation from immediate and extended members of their family and their religious practices have disrupted Given these conditions the people of that time like the people freed from the slavery in Egypt wonder if God brought them back here only to abandon them. The words from Isaiah seek to reassure God’s people they have once again found favor with God, as coming back to the land is a sign that God’s covenant has been renewed. Isaiah tells them although things seem dark now God is aware of their suffering and in God’s time the beauty of their nation and its order will be restored.
In our second reading this week Saint Paul seeks to help the people in Thessalonica to understand how to live as followers of Christ. It appears that the community there has been too busy managing other people’s affairs and offering correction rather than living out their calling. Saint Paul teaches that we are most like Jesus and attract others to his ways when we live out our faith rather than scrutinizing other people. He reminds them and us we are called to be people of prayer, people who are thankful, and people who are joyful. That being joyful is proof that we believe our true happiness is not anchored in the passing things of this world but in the lasting gifts that come from God.
The Gospel of John focuses on the ministry of John the Baptist. John the Baptist seems to take great joy in preparing people for the coming of the Messiah. He joy is anchored doing his part well. He uses the words of Isaiah to remind them that this has been predicted and what they have been waiting for is in their company yet unrecognized. He encourages people not to focus on him or his role, but to prepare themselves for the one who has the real authority and power — the one who is the answer to their prayers.
As the candles from this and other advent wreaths throughout world permeate the darkness and struggles of our time may they also remind us of our call to be watchful, hopeful and most importantly joyful. Come Lord Jesus come!