A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Advent Meditation: Joy and Laughter

But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onwards and for evermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:1-7)

The prophet Isaiah envisions a time when sorrow will turn to joy for God's people. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light! Isaiah reminds the people that their darkness, their suffering, has come upon them for two reasons-- some suffering has come upon them through no fault of their own-- they are just victims of circumstances. Other trials and difficulties, however, are the result of their own wrong doing, of choosing their own way in life rather than God's way. But God does not intend to leave them in their misery. In the worst areas of darkness for Israel in that day, the land in the north by the Sea of Galilee, God promises that light will indeed shine. God will bring joy out of despair.

But how will God accomplish this great feat? Through the birth of a child! Out of the disaster God will bring forth a victory through this birth. But who is this child? We can almost imagine Isaiah asking God what the things he has been inspired to say mean. We are told that the Messiah will come as a child. He will come as one unexpected and he will crush evil in unexpected ways, ways not used by the world to combat evil. Isaiah and his original hearers may have been confused in trying to understand who the Messiah was to be and how he was to accomplish his work. But Isaiah was attempting to understand God's words seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus. We who stand on the other side of that birth understand these words clearly. In Jesus, Isaiah's prophecy has come into focus.

Jesus is the one of whom Isaiah speaks. He is the one who shines the light of God bringing joy out of despair. The good news is that Jesus is God with us. And the God who is with us is here to turn our darkness into light and our despair into joy. And if the God of the Bible in all of his love and compassion is truly with us, that is good news for all of eternity! The worst that can happen to us cannot compare with the best that God has already accomplished for us in Jesus Christ!

The child born of Mary is the Son of David, but he is also the Son of God. The bulk of Jesus' ministry was in Galilee, but he was "enthroned" on a cross in Jerusalem. By taking upon himself the sin and oppression, the horror and the tragedy of the world, he was able to impart to us joy where there was only despair, laughter where there was only sorrow.

Lois Morgan of Mocksville, North Carolina wrote the following prayer in the midst of extremely difficult and tragic life circumstances:

Jesus, I believe you laughed as Mary bathed you and Joseph tickled your toes. I believe you giggled as you and other children played your childhood games. And when you went to the Temple and astounded the teachers, I believe you chuckled as all children chuckle when they stump adults. And surely there were moments of merriment as you and your disciples deepen you relationship. And as you and Mary and Martha and Lazarus fellowshiped, mirth must have mirrored your faces.

Jesus, I know you wept and anguished. But I believe you laughed too. Create in me the life of laughter.*

Yes, suffering and despair are to be taken seriously; and that is precisely why the Christian life is a life of joy. In the midst of it all, God has made a way out. In the middle of our lost ways, God has found us. Only God can destroy death and defeat darkness. Only God can turn our despair into joy. Only God can turn sorrow into laughter. Only God can turn cross into resurrection.

The worst that can happen to us cannot compare with the best God has already accomplished for us in Jesus Christ!
*Cal & Rose Samra, Holy Humor (New York: Mastermedia Limited, 1996).

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