Union Weekly Advent Devotional: Week 3 - Real Joy

Union Weekly Advent Devotional: Real Joy
Isaiah 35
Matthew 11:2-11

“And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Isaiah 35:10)

Where is our Joy? In a world where some kids will have dozens of costly gifts under the tree while others will open nothing Christmas morning, where inequities swell like storm waves and the winds of injustices batter our ships to and fro, where violence is more common than breathing… where is our Joy? The crowds must have asked Isaiah, that prophet of old, a similar question. And Isaiah responded: “Be strong, do not fear. Your God is here. Your God will come and save you.” (Is. 35:4) And he painted for them a picture. One where even the driest desert blossoms, where weak hands are made strong, where trembling knees stand firm, where even the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. He painted for them a picture that says: Your God is here. Not to do as the world does, but to do as only God can do.

God knows these are troubling times, and that our tears are as real as oceans. But God also knows what we do not always: this joy that we have? The world didn’t give it, the world can’t take it away. Every time we hear that proclamation and decree God will bring down the mighty from their thrones and exalt the humble. God will fill the hungry with good things and the rich will be sent away, we allow a deep, prophetic joy to well up from within us. Real Joy is not happiness. Real Joy is the deep assurance and conviction that the way may be rough, but God is going to turn it around. 

  • In a world of so much talking and so little action, we call ourselves on this day to stand in Real Joy that turns the world upside down, to new a new thing.
  • To follow in the footsteps of Jesus–Incarnate Word, word made flesh, Emmanuel
  • To resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves
  • To feed the hungry and clothe those who are naked
  • To heal the sick and visit the imprisoned
  • To comfort the afflicted and to bind up the broken-hearted
  • To reclaim our joy as that which the world didn’t give and the world cannot take away.

God who approaches:
you gather the ignored,
   so you can accomplish the unexpected
   for a world which no longer cares;
with bread broken into pieces,
   you restore your shattered creation;
as you let go of your Child,
   our emptiness is filled
   with immeasurable grace.

Ever-new, always-scarred
Jesus of the forgotten:
through you,
   those whose voices are silenced
   hear the whispers of angels
   on hillsides and in shelters;
by you,
   those who are knocked over
   lead the way into your kingdom;
with you,
   those who wander in shadows
   are clasped tight in your love.

Breath of Advent:
you pour the promises of the Word
   into the shy and silent
   so they can carol of grace;
you stretch out your hand
to all in despair’s exile,
   to place them on the
   holy way of hope;
you gather up the scraps
of our scattered fears,
   to build a new crib
   for a refugee family.

We ask you to come, O God,
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
(Adapted from Thom Shuman lectionary liturgies)