Rejoice, I say it again rejoice. Shout for joy. Sing joyfully. Be glad and exult with all your heart. These words sound very welcome to me after a pretty glum week in Chicago…marches, demonstrations, words and words and words, but not about joy.
Anger, frustration, accusations, shouting, blocking traffic, but not joy! Is the third Sunday of Advent out of touch with the events of everyday life? No! Despite what is going on around us, like in Zephaniah, God assures us that he is in our midst and that should remove the harsh judgments from our hearts
The American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, speaking of the joyous bells of Christmas, seems to capture the duality of joy and pain in life.
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
When he composed this poem his life was experiencing much pain: his wife had been killed in a house fire and he just learned that his son, fighting for the North in the Civil War, was seriously injured. His spirit was sagging as was that of the nation during the Civil War. His pen continued.
And in despair, I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men.”
Then more words came as the pen moved on:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor doth he sleep,
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!
God has walked our troubled ways in the past with Zephaniah, with Paul, with John the Baptist, with shepherds and angels on the first Christmas Night. The question is the question addressed to John—what should we do? We find the tax collector, the soldier asking “what should we do?” The answer collect taxes fairly; don’t accuse anyone falsely; live your life rightly is John’s answer. Follow the one who comes after me, the Christ.
The challenge is for each one of us to answer that same question “what should I do?” to contribute to that angelic chant “peace on earth, good-will to the men and women who walk through my life daily. How do I say to them “Rejoice, I say it again rejoice. Shout for joy. Sing joyfully. Be glad and exult with all your heart?” How do I make joy happen?