“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice!” And reminds us of the why: “You forgave the iniquity of Your people; You covered all their sin.”
Our faith came into the world as the Advent of Great Joy. That is the very name that the Angels gave Him on the night of His birth: “Good news of a Great Joy for all people.” That’s Jesus. And so the upcoming Feast of His holy Nativity with its overflowing joy floods back into the solemn Advent fast with a reminder that it is all about joy. So we pray in the Collect for this Sunday that the darkness of our hearts would be lightened by our God’s gracious visitation.
Think of the readings for today: “Comfort, comfort, my people, says your God.... The Word of our God stands forever.” “Judge nothing before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each will receive his commendation from God.” “Go and tell John what you hear and see.” (And as a bonus: even my personal Matins this morning, using the old KJV reading schedule, the second reading from Acts 13 ended with these words: “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost.” “The Spirit turns to joy whatever He touches” said St. Seraphim of Sarov.)
Or consider the great hymn of the day from the medieval Church: Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Crying with that incomparable stanza four: So when next He comes in glory And the world is wrapt in fear He will shield us with His mercy And with words of love draw near.” What a vision! What a joyous hope!
So pastor preached the comfort of this great joy that none of the darkness around us can quench. What good is a Savior that doesn’t get His forerunner out of prison? What good is a Savior that doesn’t rescue you from earthly trials and heartache? He delivered John IN prison. He delivers us IN the trials. He does so by the Word He sends us to sustain us, carrying with it all that is His and giving it to us, promising that it all ends in Resurrection and Forgiveness. And thus He lifts us through His word into the joy that is His and that He came to impart to us that it might be ours forever, no matter what sorrow or grief comes our way.
Yes, people loved by God, you have an Unquenchable Joy in Him, who is Forgiveness of all sin, who is the Destruction of death and who is the Gift of Life Eternal! How can life be anything other than a time for rejoicing?!