joy candle

The first time I ran across Isaiah 42 verse 1 was when I was preparing my mother’s homegoing service in November of 2002.  The words, “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights,” brought me some comfort and a bit of peace at the time.

This morning, the more I read the entire pericope that makes up today’s Narrative Lectionary text found here, my emotions were all over the place.  I went from being nostalgic to becoming a bit overwhelmed and then filled with expectant joy. Agh!

Verses 2-4 describe a “superwoman.” One that never tires. Never gives up. Does the never-ending work of justice with grace, humility, just the right amount of patience, and, not a hair out of place.

Does this sound like you? Or anyone you know these days?

Not me! I can barely remember to breathe.

I wonder if it is possible to be filled with God’s spirit and be near burnout? Fed up? Ready to cry and perhaps hide for a week or two? Finding it hard to respond to hate with kindness? To persist when it feels there is nothing left?

Can we face these questions on this third Sunday of Advent, as we light the candle of joy? Can we believe in our hearts that they are okay to ask and trust that God won’t turn away?

Verses 5-9 say we can. The text reminds us that we are not alone. Ever.

God holds our hand. God walks with us, beside us and before us.

Yes, there is work to do. Hard work. But God has not only called us, God has also equipped us.

What examples of joy in the struggle can we offer to the congregation? Are we clear on the difference between being “happy” and experiencing “joy”?

What comes up for you when you read this text in light of what is happening in our world today? and in light of your own work and ministry?

How in our preaching and teaching can we give folx permission to feel what they feel while owning our call to be light and as we all wait with expectant joy for what God has promised?

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Rev. Dr. Marilyn Pagán-Banks (she/her/hers/ella) is a queer womanist freedom fighter, minister, spiritual entrepreneur, teacher, and life-long learner committed to the liberation of colonized peoples, centering the marginalized, building power and creating community. She lives in Chicago with her spouse and their teenage son (pray for us), has two adult daughters and eight delightful grandchildren (!—please keep praying ;)) Dr. Pagán-Banks currently serves as executive director of A Just Harvest, pastor at San Lucas UCC, and, adjunct professor at McCormick Theological Seminary.

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