As I prepare for the Third Sunday of Advent, this Sunday of joy, I have to admit that I’m feeling like a killjoy. I have baked cookies, done a little crafting, and am taking a bit of vacation this week. All the while, I keep thinking I’ll get into the Christmas spirit, find my joy, escape from some of the layers of anger and sorrow on my “lazy Susan” of grief.

This Sunday’s text gets at the crux of my feelings. It’s Isaiah 55, and the Working Preacher commentary can be found here.

The Babylonian exiles are returning to their land. There should be much rejoicing. They have longed for home, for freedom, and yet, they are hungry and unsettled. Because when they return, there isn’t the prosperity they were thought they’d find. Returning home hasn’t wiped away earlier hurts, it hasn’t restored relationships, it hasn’t made everything better.

Dammit.

Returning home is supposed to be the magical elixir of happiness and joy.

How many of us, in this Christmas season, believe that Christmas is supposed to be the magical elixir of happiness and joy? That each craft we make, each decoration we put up, each party we attend, each meal we prepare, each gift we make is supposed to bring us that much closer to happiness?

It’s not going to work.

So instead, let’s “incline” our ear and listen for God (v 3), seek the Lord (v 6), and choose between wickedness and the way of the Lord (v 7). Let’s relax into the idea that happiness, joy, prosperity, they aren’t the gifts of the Christmas season.

Instead of those things, we are waiting for God to enter the world in the form of a little baby, to teach us to love through difficult times, to teach us to share when we don’t have enough, to teach us to stand with and for hungry and thirsty people, inviting them to a table set for them by God.

Here are some other ideas:

  • Thomas Wolfe’s novel You Can’t Go Home Again deals with these same themes from our text today. Remember that Wolfe was writing in an unsettling time of poverty (the 20s and 30s), with a rise in fascism. Sound familiar? A helpful quote is, “I have to see a thing a thousand times before I see it once.”
  • What about a discussion on “good giving?” What does it mean to give charitably, and how do we decide how to give money during this season? What actually happens to the money that the bell ringers gather? Is there a way to be more connected to how our money is given, without having expectations on how it’s spent? The invitation to the Table is about relationship, right?
  • Christmas is fraught with many emotions. And so many of us are disconnected from our emotional roots now. How about a frank talk about all the different kinds of emotions there are? My favorite discussion of emotions comes from The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership: A new paradigm for sustainable success, written Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman, and Kaley Warner Klemp. They say there are five primary emotions: anger, fear, sadness, joy, and sexual feelings. All other emotions are about intensity. Low intensity anger is upset, tense, annoyed… High intensity anger is embittered, enraged, furious.

Blessings on your preparations this week.

Where will you go?


Rev. Lia Scholl is not-that-kind-of-Baptist preacher and pastor in Winston-Salem, North Carolina (U.S.) and is the author of I Heart Sex Workers (Chalice Press, 2013).


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2 thoughts on “Narrative Lectionary: Joy Edition (Isaiah 55)

  1. i am pairing this reading with Mary’s song in Luke 1. i love the Magnificat, and we will sing a version of it.
    also thinking about the difference between happiness and joy. happiness as a response to the external, like your sports team winning; joy is something that wells up inside us. but it is only Wednesday morning, lots more time to mull it over.

    Like

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