Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11/ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24/ John 1:6-8, 19-28
The Good News Bringing Joy
Things That Bring Us Joy
Christmas is my favorite holiday, and it gives me joy just being surrounded by Christmassy things. Christmas evokes joy to a lot of people. What are some of the things that bring us joy (besides Christmas)? While reflecting on joy and the gospel of Jesus, I thought of some good news from history: when segregation law ended for African Americans, when women won voting rights, when Canada legalized same-sex marriage, and so on. Also, those of you who have sat in the dark because of power outage will remember the joy when the light came back. News of a newborn baby brings us joy. News of a loved one beating difficult illnesses also brings us joy. Generally speaking, what brings us joy seems to be about life, light, and people earning basic human rights and dignity. I mentioned the ‘good news’ several times so far: the Gospel (of Jesus Christ) is also called Good News.
John Witnessing to the Light
Advent is about waiting for Christmas, yet today’s gospel text may seem odd. It’s not about Mary or Joseph hearing from an angel about the baby or Mary visiting cousin Elizabeth. Last Sunday, we already met John the Baptist who prepared God’s people for the coming of Jesus.
Today, through the beginning of the Gospel of John, we will focus on the light to which John testified. It’s not just that he was preparing for the coming of the messiah: we learn here that Jesus is the light. Light reveals flaws and dirtiness. That is why a lot of crimes happen in the dark. It is difficult to do evil deeds in broad daylight. Because Jesus is the light of God, after the Christmas season comes the Season of Epiphany, which is about light; God revealing light through the life and teachings of Jesus. John the Baptist is the advent of Jesus Christ. That is why John is the perfect representative for the Season of Advent.
Good News to the Oppressed
The Gospel (or “Good News”) of Jesus Christ is good news to the marginalized and suffering people. Isaiah’s message of comfort and salvation in chapter 61 is a perfect precursor to the story of Jesus.
“The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners.”
God promises to comfort the marginalized and bring them liberation from their suffering. It sounds familiar because that is basically all of Jesus’ ministry. God promises to “provide for those who mourn in Zion-to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.” You get the picture… This is the promise of God, who loves justice. As the Israelites heard this message of hope in exile, Jesus’ people who were suffering from the Romans and the oppressive religious leaders heard the same message. And through the teachings of Jesus, we continue to listen to the same message and are called to deliver this message to the suffering people of our communities.
Rejoice and Share the Christmas Joy
We are beloved children of God. We are the disciples of Jesus. Since we heard the Good News of Jesus and accepted God’s love for us, joy should be an essential part of our lives. Good news, in general, brings joy. Then how much more joyful should we be at the knowledge that God is our parent, guide, friend, and protector?
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Let us be joyful and thankful. Always. Let us also bring the Good News of Jesus that talks of God’s promise of hope and liberation to those in our communities who are struggling to have hope. Let us bring this good news to them with our humble service of love.
The joy of Christmas is not in spending a lot of money buying gifts or elaborate decorations but in sharing God’s love with those who need hope in life. I mentioned at the beginning that Christmas evokes joy to a lot of people. However, there are others to whom this season evokes sadness and loneliness. Our duty as God’s people is to share our Christmas joy with them. Therefore, as we rejoice in the gift of Christmas and God’s love, let us make sure our siblings, local and global, will know joy too.