Advent 3 [source]
Welcome to the 3rd Sunday of Advent! Hopefully that is a cause for great JOY to all of you! {and hopefully very little panic that 14 days from today will be Christmas Eve.}

King Cyrus [source]
This week the Narrative Lectionary leads us to Ezra and a new beginning (Ezra 1:1-4; 3:1-4, 10-13). Last week the people in exile were being offered words of comfort and promise with Isaiah 40. They were promised a road home.  This week the word comes that can actually go home and rebuild the temple. Indeed Cyrus commands them to build the temple.

You would think this is a story about full unrestrained JOY. Finally they can go home. Finally they can return to being the people of God and sing the songs of God in their homeland.

The Temple Being Rebuilt [source]
But when the temple foundation is laid there are tears. There is great joy and celebration to be sure, but there are also tears. People who are now old remember what was there in their youth, before the disaster came, before the world was changed. Do they weep because this new foundation reawakens that wound of seeing the destruction in the first place? Do they weep because they are sure that the grandeur that once was will never be fully replaced (the books of Ezra and Nehemiah show that the rebuilding project does not always go smoothly)? For whatever reason, they weep.

And then there is that last verse, the verse that tells us the sound of weeping was lost in the shouts of joy. OR possibly that the sounds of joy are lost in the sounds of weeping? It strikes me that periods of high emotion are like that at times. It also occurs to me that as people in community at times of transition need to listen carefully. We need to distinguish the excitement for the new beginning from the sorrow of what has been lost.

Christmas, many would say, is about joy. “Joy to the world! The Lord is come!” we sing. But Christmas may come in the midst of sorrow or struggle. Where are the tears in our circles this Christmas? Each Christmas, to me at least,  is the start of new possibilities. Where is our joy and our sorrow in this restart?

I don’t read Ezra as saying the people were distraught that the temple was being rebuilt, they were distraught that it had been destroyed in the first place and so much was lost (I see no note about Cyrus returning all the precious silver and gold objects that had been removed when the First Temple was destroyed). But the sorrow needed to be heard and recognized.

We have a lot of new starts in life. We are often told to be excited about them. What happens when we are not? Can we give ourselves, and those around us, the space for tears in the midst of excitement and joy?

Gord Waldie has been practicing ministry in the United Church of Canada for 18 years.  One day he hopes to get it right. He lives in North-Central Alberta and keeps telling himself that he is indeed ready for Christmas.

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3 thoughts on “Narrative Lectionary: New Beginnings, Joy–and Tears (Ezra 1:1-4; 3:1-4, 10-13)

  1. I am adding Luke 1: 5-25 to the Ezra reading. thinking about the Temple. in the midst of bush-fires, if the whole town was destroyed, what would we rebuild first?
    The people are restored – not to reclaim the land, but to worship God
    when we worship God, be prepared for God to work in our lives [from Luke reading]

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting Question…. I hunch the first thing to be rebuilt in many Canadian communities would not be the local church. Indeed houses of worship may only get done when those congregations have the rest of their lives in order


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