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Deep Down Joy

Matthew 11:2-11

Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice. Jesus Our Saviour is coming to save us.

He is the source of our joy and there is joy in expectation.

I suppose opening the windows of an Advent Calendar can be a bit like that, only so many sleeps till Christmas. Have you seen that sense of expectation and wonder in the eyes of little children? Perhaps it is the expectation of a loved grandparent or family member coming to be with you over the Christmas Season. There can be a growing excitement and expectation about that.

Gaudete Sunday which is always the 3rd Sunday of Advent invites us to focus on the gift of joy and the expectation of the Lord’s coming.

Given the circumstances of our lives and relationships, we may not feel particularly joyful. We may be experiencing real difficulties and sorrows.

What a tragic event we have witnessed in our country in recent times with the volcanic eruption at Whakaari/White Island, the loss of life and the grief of family members.

And how painful for those families in Samoa who have lost their children to measles. It would be difficult for them to hear ‘rejoice in the Lord always’ at present.

Even John the Baptist given his fiery temperament and staunch attitude seems to be wavering in our Gospel today from his prison cell doubting if Christ is in fact the one who was to come. He too is being challenged to conversion. Things are not always according to our own plans or world view. Is it any wonder that we can find ourselves in that position sometimes when life is burdensome and the way ahead uncertain? We are encouraged to see things from a different perspective. Our old ways of seeing are no longer helpful. We need Christ to heal our blindness.

In the time of the prophet Isaiah things were pretty grim for the people of Israel and yet he was able to prophesy that out of the waste land and wilderness flowers would bloom and despite their fears and struggles call them to have courage and not to be afraid.

I am mindful of the people of Ngati Awa singing and praying on the foreshore in Whakatane to comfort and support those who have lost loved ones. There is an echo of that call to courage and not to be afraid. May our prayer tonight surround all those who grieve, all those Isaiah refers to with weary hands and trembling knees.

St James in his letter invites us to be patient and not to lose heart until the Lord’s coming. The seed will bear its fruit in due season. It has happened before, and it will happen again. Despite what we may be enduring we will get there in the end. Jesus is asking us not to lose faith in him.

Mother Theresa was once asked the source of her joy despite all the poverty she witnessed. She replied, “Joy is prayer, joy is strength, joy is love, joy is the net of love. A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love…loving as He loves, helping as He helps, giving as He gives, rescuing as He rescues…. touching him in his distressing disguise”. She listened in the way he listened and saw in the way he saw and in doing so comforted and healed the sick and the dying. Her eyes and ears were opened. We want our eyes and ears to be opened too.

When we reflect on Christ and the way he helped we hear in our Gospel that he reached out to the blind, the lame, the lepers and the deaf, healing them, enabling eyes to be opened and ears to hear and the poor to receive Good news in a way that had been denied them. He wanted to reassure John the Baptist that this was the sign of God breaking through into the world. Christ asks us to join with him in that mission and in doing so experience deep down joy. And isn’t it the case when we focus on other people and not on our own self centredness that we do experience that joy.

For our song this week, ‘You Are All I Have’ from Like a Beautiful Day captures something of what I have shared today.

Peace and joy in Christ who comes to us.

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