Preparation: The joy of John the Baptist

The third candle: Joy

The third candle in Advent, is about joy.

From Psalm 5:11, we hear these words,

“But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
so that those who love your name may exult in you.”

I am going to state the obvious: People who take refuge are those who have something to take refuge from. So why should they be joyful? The Bible yet again is counter intuitive. But joyfulness in the Lord, sung by anyone who is going through some serious trouble is an infectious thing, and it also at the centre of Christian worship. We praise God not because of our situation but because of who God is despite our situation. It is infectious and causes others to worship God too.

Too often, we think joy is something big, O God. A brass band or a parade can certainly bring us joy. Just as easily and far more often, we can feel joy in a hug or the squeeze of hand, we can see joy in a smile or hear it in laughter. Help us to not overlook the simple joys that peak into our lives daily. This week in our Advent journey, open our eyes to the joy that surrounds us. Amen.

The third candle: John the Baptist

John was from a priestly family. You wold have expected him to follow in his father Zechariah’s footsteps and serve in the Temple in Jerusalem. Taking into account the events around his birth, mirroring Isaac being promised to Abraham, just think of the effect he could have had in Jerusalem, the centre of religious and political power.

But John rejects the fine robes, money and influence that being at the centre of politics and religion would bring. He does not mirror the settled life of Isaac, the Patriarch who never left the land that would become Israel, instead his life has similarities to the prophet who lived wild and challenged the politicians of the time. Elijah.

Like Elijah, John experienced doubts. Like Elijah, speaking against the politicians of the time did not go well : Elijah ran for his life and John was executed.

The similarity does not end there. When the disciples asked Jesus if Elijah was to come again before the Messiah would come Jesus directed them to John. John denied that he was Elijah, but he went out in the spirit of Elijah.

God does nothing without first preparing the way first; that was the theme of a blog last week. The angels appearing to Zechariah and Mary, the appearance to Joseph in a dream and the ministry of John are all part of God’s preparation to the coming of Jesus. Like John we must remember that it is all about Jesus: John was overjoyed to see Jesus and knew his work was done. “He must increase and I must decrease,” is a good plan to follow.

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