This Sunday we will light our third Advent Candle, the candle of Joy. It joins Hope and Love shining in the dark places of our world and in our hearts. Recently these themes emerged in my readings in Proverbs:
The light of the righteous rejoices, but the lamp of the wicked will be put out. … Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13: 9,12
Whatever else we may identify that we long for in life, joy and hope are near the root. Here we are reminded that only through the righteousness of the Gospel will our hope be fulfilled and joy be complete. I have been reminded lately of how sick many of us are. Literally my friend Mike is quite sick. Mike is my age, his oldest daughter Zoe’s age. Mike’s cancer had been dormant for 16 years and now has returned with a vengeance. Mike is facing the prospect of more battle with this dreaded disease. Hope deferred makes the heart sick … Many of us feel the “sickness” of this world. We feel it in our bodies. We feel it in our minds and spirits. We feel the heaviness in our relationships. Where do we find hope? Do we put it in doctors? In our body’s ability to recover? If these things are our hope, then we will struggle to see it fulfilled. Two nights ago I prayed with a young man in a place and a position where hope eludes. But as we prayed, there was a firm reminder that we were not alone and that there was hope. Advent is the story that the Great Desire of Nations has come and our trees, though seemingly barren, will bear their fruit in season.
In finding hope there is joy. Not necessarily circumstantial happiness; life radiates challenge and surface level happiness often escapes us. But beyond challenge is joy stemming from a connection to Christ, mediated through his Love, that is deeper than our circumstances. Joy to the world, the Lord has come!