Isaiah 35:1-10/ Luke 1:47-55/ Matthew 11:2-11
Hope of Peace Leads to Joy
Joy Based on Justice
I remember what I felt watching Mr. Obama be elected as the US president. In the country with a history of black oppression, seeing a black man become its president, seeing a black family move into the White House gave hope to so many racial minorities inside and outside of the US. We felt hopeful and empowered.
I have already shared with you how I felt about watching the movies Black Panther and Wonder Woman. Seeing a black superhero and a powerful African country, and seeing a strong and compassionate woman be a superhero made me feel great as a woman of colour. I felt the same when a Korean American actress Sandra Oh won an award and kept getting cast as the protagonist in movies and TV shows, while most Asian American actors only get cast as side characters and often playing stereotypical characters.
What I felt was joy, but it is not the same kind of joy we feel in ordinary circumstances. This is the joy that is based on justice; marginalized people feeling empowered.
Isaiah’s Vision of Joy
Today, we read scriptures about such joy. In Isaiah 35, we see what it will be like when God’s chosen people return to their Holy City as liberated and redeemed people. Even the dry land shall be glad, rejoice, blossom, and sing. They hear messages such as “Be strong, do not fear.” Water shall break forth in the wilderness, the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and no lion shall be there to harm weaker creatures when the ransomed of the Lord return. All these visions are of peace and justice. When God’s people find peace and justice, of course, they are going to rejoice and sing. And cry of joy.
Mary’s Song of Praise
The same joy is expressed in Mary’s Song of Praise. After Mary is told about bearing a holy baby, the son of God, she visits Elizabeth, her relative, who was barren but becomes the mother of John the Baptist. Both women are pregnant and rejoicing together, when Mary bursts out in this famous song of praise.
This song sings of God of justice who will humble the powerful and exult the powerless. The prospect of giving birth to God’s deliverer of justice is incredibly empowering and hopeful for a poor country girl like Mary and all the other people who don’t have power in the society. Spoiler alert: this is why so many people who are marginalized for different reasons will abandon everything to follow Jesus.
Disciples of John the Baptist
In Matthew chapter 11, some disciples of John the Baptist come to see Jesus after hearing about what he was doing. They want to know if Jesus is The One or if they should wait for someone else. Jesus doesn’t say that he’s The One, but instead, he says, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.”
He doesn’t have to say it directly since seeing is believing. We don’t know for sure, but I imagine that John’s disciples went away feeling the kind of joy that is based on the hope for peace and justice. Another spoiler alert: John, who is in prison in chapter 11, will be killed later in chapter 17, but I imagine his heart being filled with hope and joy at the end of his life, in the knowledge that the Messiah has come to proclaim God’s reign of peace and justice.
As if to confirm this reign of Justice for which he came, Jesus ends this scene by saying, “Among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
Joy from the Hope for Justice
This is why the coming of Jesus brings hope for peace and justice to regular people; even the “little people” of the society are considered great and valued by God. This message is the Gospel (or Good News) of Jesus Christ and why so many people rejoice and hope for a just and peaceful community.
The joy that we celebrate during the Season of Advent is the kind of joy that comes with the hope for justice and peace. This hope enables us to rejoice even when we are living through dark times in life. This is why Advent celebrates hope, peace, joy, and love on which the other three are based.
During this Season of Advent, let us rejoice because Jesus brings the hope of justice and peace. Let us rejoice because he teaches us that God loves and values everyone without discrimination, and empowers the marginalized. And by following Jesus, let us dedicate our lives in continuing his legacy of bringing God’s reign of justice into our earthly communities.