Three of today’s lectionary readings talk about JOY.
Zephaniah 3:14-20 is a prophetic reminder that even in times of chastisement, like the exile that would soon come upon the people of ancient Judah, God still has a hope for them to hang on to. He reminds them that even in the tough times He is in their midst… He is with them through it all. therefore, they can “Sing… Shout… Be glad and rejoice!”
Isaiah 12:2-6 is one of those psalms that isn’t located in the book of Psalms… but it also is a prophetic hymn of praise because it is the song that they will sing “in that day…” I noticed the theme of joy again in verse 3 where it says “with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” And then prophetically announces that “in that day you will… Praise… call upon… Declare… Make mention… Sing… Cry out and shout…”
Philippians 4:4-7 is Paul’s famous reminder that Christians should rejoice… “and again I say rejoice!”
To top it all off, today was our children’s Christmas ‘program.’ It seems they haven’t done one during church in a long time, but after a hymn, the offering, and the prayer time, we ‘changed gears’ and focused on Christmas through the kids’ eyes. It was a lot of work, especially since we did a themed presentation with a painted backdrop, props, parts, and the whole 9 yards. (We were on a tropical island for Christmas and it started with some of the teens complaining about no snow… no sledding… no skiing… etc. And that led us to what does it REALLY mean to celebrate Christmas… we had a skit with some 20 kids participating and several musical numbers and a time of prayer & dedication over prayer cloths and Christmas cards we’re sending to some of our troops who’ll be celebrating Christmas without snow).
But despite all of the work, when all was said and done, it was the joy of the kids that energized me. One little girl, who didn’t want to be away from her mommy by being up on the platform, stood two feet away from the altar rail facing the rest of the kids and she literally jumped up and down with joy while we were singing. That kid radiated joy.
Christmas is a time of joy, but it’s also the time when people find themselves feeling lonely and sometimes depressed after the loss of a loved one, or a job, or a health concern. Obviously, joy is not always synonymous with Christmas.
That’s where these three scripture passages jump out at me… We, like those ancient ones who followed God and yet were facing tough times, need to deliberately learn to trust in and hang on to our God in the midst of whatever is happening. Like He says in Jeremiah 29, He has a “future and a hope” for those who trust in Him. Like Zephaniah reminded them back then, God is in their, and our, midst, even in the middle of the craziest and most confusing and trying of times. Like Isaiah and Philippians tell us, we need to make choices to grab a hold of the hope… and make our requests and needs made known to God… because then we can look forward to the answer from our God and the joy that comes with it!