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Advent 3 - The Joy Of God’s Coming

“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in God.”

Isaiah’s poem that we heard this morning begins a little earlier in the first verse of chapter 60 with the words “Arise, shine for your light has come” and goes on to describe the glory of the new age to be ushered in with the coming of God.  Even so fine a poet as Isaiah is struggling to describe how great this joy shall be.  While I was pondering this I began to ask myself what sort of good news moments there may have been that might somehow equate to the joy Isaiah expresses to the exiles.  I started to wonder for example what the mood might have been like in this country on the 8th May 1945.

Harold Nicholson’s diary describes the scene in the House of Commons that afternoon.  Churchill had broadcast to the nation from Downing Street at three o’clock, loud speakers had been set up and crowds had gathered to hear him.  He finished his speech with the words” Britannia Advance” and with singing of God Save the King and then he made his way from number 10 to the House.  The crowds made his progress a little slower than usual and he was late for question time “Then,” says Nicholson, “a slight stir was observed behind the Speaker’s chair and Winston looking coy and cheerful came in.  The house rose as a man and yelled and yelled and waved their order papers.  He responded, not with a bow exactly but with an odd shy jerk of the head and with a wide grin.  Then he started to read to us the statement he had just made on the wireless.

Another account of the same day from Joan Wyndham captures the exuberance “There was wild excitement in Trafalgar Square.”

Here was a turning point in the life of a nation and the joy of both these diarists in their different ways is palpable.  I think that in part their joy comes from the amazing feeling that we get when something that seems far out of reach comes to pass.  I remember personal moments, getting to the university that I only dreamed of being able to attend, Patrick being born, a gift from God that we had thought impossible, being selected for ordination; none of these really seemed possible and certainly not probable and it is this sort of elation that Isaiah is trying to capture.

“As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with jewels, as the earth brings up its shoots … so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up. “

He invokes the idea of a wedding, a most happy day a turning point when bride and bridegroom begin a new life together.  We had a bride this summer who might have been reading Isaiah for her radiant smile was on her face from the moment I met her by the gate to the moment she left the church (and indeed it may be there still!)  “Arise; shine for your light has come”

But listen, the good news is that He will come to bring good news to the oppressed, bind up the broken hearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, release to the prisoners to comfort all those who mourn.  So, as we watch and wait, through Advent, the season of winter darkness, let us shine out to the world around us, with those we meet and when we speak of what Christmas means to us let us communicate the joy of Jesus’ coming as much as when peace is declared, or a new child or grandchild is born, or someone we know gets to college or maybe is going to be married for it truly is as joyous as all these things.

Amen

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