This is the third week of our Advent series entitled “walk in the light.” We read much about the Lord being the Light of the World that we must be in light and not darkness. So it seems like a good time to prepare ourselves for the annual time of preparing, Advent, to look at the light and how we can walk in the light always. Over this four weeks we will look at the weekend readings and pull out some key themes that will help us ready ourselves for the coming of the Lord, and walking in the light.
It is a busy season, Christmas has turned into a time for children and gifts and telling loved ones how we love them. It is also is a time that creates lots of tension to buy the perfect gift, have the perfect party, help those who are in need. We put more pressure on ourselves than usual at this time of year, so it is a good time to find moments to pause and reflect on who we are and whose we are.
In the readings from two weeks ago we looked at conducting ourselves properly. Paul challenged us to be ready and to not fall victim to the desires of the flesh but to live for something more than ourselves. In the first reading from Isaiah we were told of a world where there is peace (not war), all will be obedient to the desires of God, and ready to walk in the light. In the gospel we read Jesus preaching about a coming that is of an unknown time and so we should be prepared. If we knew the time we would be prepared, don’t let this unknowing allow us to be caught off guard. To walk in the light we must be ready and we must conduct ourselves properly.
Last week the readings lead us to a message that we are to be in harmony with one another. The reading from Isaiah declared one is coming who will bring harmony and a life of peace, serenity, and a Kingdom for all. Paul speaking to the Romans echoed this message of harmony; we should encourage one another and endure with one another. In the Gospel we heard John the Baptist telling us what happens when we don’t change, when we don’t live in harmony following the message of Jesus. It is in harmony we need to live with one another, and if we are able we will walk in the Light of the Lord.
This week’s readings allows us to focus on sorrow and mourning fleeing. Isaiah speaks about a time when the people are returning to Zion, all sorrow and mourning are fleeing as God guides them to the life they love. The letter from James speaks of patience and waiting, that with time and with God’s help we will find comfort. In the gospel Jesus is questioned about being the Messiah and he responds by pointing to all the sorrow and mourning that has fled from those healed. He also points to his friend John the Baptist as one who will suffer but his sorrow and mourning will also flee. By letting God’s plans work in us we will see our sorrow and mourning flee and we will walk in the light of God.
The readings this week for most ritual churches are from the Lectionary for the Third Sunday of Advent; Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10; Psalms 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11. The readings help us recognize we will have sorrow, but with comfort from God sorrow and mourning will flee.
The reading from the prophet Isaiah presents a picture of a restored Jerusalem. God, who manifested his presence and protection during the exodus, when Israel came up from Egypt, will do so again in wonderful ways as the redeemed flock returns home to Zion. He will show them the route and give them a highway, he will be with them in a sort of solemn procession to where he dwells. The people are joyful and excited and see those in need receiving miracles such as sight restored, hearing repaired and those unable to walk are healed. The people enter Zion singing with an everlasting joy, they are met with joy and gladness, all sorrow and mourning has fled. This is how it is when we trust in God, sorrow and mourning disappear. If we trust God and accept Gods plan for our lives we may have sorrowful moments and moments when we mourn but they will be washed away by the joy of God, the gladness that God brings. It is a great time of celebration for the people returning from Babylon after more than fifty years of exile, though they struggled until their exile, they trust in God leads to them being restored. God’s presence in their lives turns their sadness into joy.If we trust God and accept Gods plan for our lives we may have sorrowful moments and moments when we mourn but they will be washed away by the joy of God, the gladness that God brings. Click To Tweet
In the second reading James in his letter to the community is warm and encouraging. He’s summoning those reading the letter to persevere through trials in order to become mature in character, to grow, moving toward perfection. He counsels them to be patient, to be firm and to not complain about one another, advice intended to help trust God. James tells them to draw strength from those who have lived before them. He tells them to be patient, although it appears that the rich are succeeding, they should be patient, the day of the Lord is coming and with the Lord they will be proven positive and glorified. James tells the reader to make their hearts firm, strengthen their hearts so they won’t easily be distracted or convinced to change heart. Through the single-mindedness of heart they will be able to remain patient, to wait on the Lord, despite what is going on all around them. This advice is needed so that when we have moments of sorrow or mourning we know that we are part of something bigger, we are loved by God and God’s plan for our lives will not end in sadness and crying, but our sorrow and mourning will flee. No matter what tragedy or scandal trips us up, God’s plan for his followers is to bring us through with joy and happiness.
In the gospel from Matthew we hear about John the Baptist asking Jesus if he is the one to come. It seems a surprising question because earlier in Matthew John was telling those at the Jordan and us reading that Jesus was the one. Jesus responds to the question by sending the message back to John that he could tell by all that is seen and heard about what Jesus is doing; the blind see, lepers cleansed, deaf hear, the dead are raised and the poor have good news. Again we see sorrow and mourning flee, as people are healed, they, their friends, their family all turn from sadness to joy, from mourning to laughing. This is what can happen with the presence of the Son of God. Jesus goes on to tell the crowds about John the Baptist and how he is honored more than anyone born. Jesus also notes that John is going to suffer and meet a painful death. Yet, Jesus knows that John will enjoy great joy and happiness in the Kingdom of heaven. John is the prophet of the Most High, Jesus the Messiah and once his work is complete he will suffer, die and be raised in heaven with the Father. His sorrow and mourning will not last. He will be reunited with the Father. It is through the message of Jesus that we know sorrow and mourning are fleeing, without the hope that Jesus brings we and John the Baptist would simply suffer and cry without a future of happiness.It is through the message of Jesus that we know of our sorrow and mourning fleeing, without the hope that Jesus brings we and John the Baptist would simply suffer and cry without a future of happiness. Click To Tweet
It is in God’s presence, God’s promise. God’s plan that we have our sorrow and mourning turned to joy and happiness. There are many places we read in scripture that God turns our mourning in to joy. It is God who looks at our life and knows what will bring us happiness, what will bring us joy and this is why God wants us to be close to him, to follow his word and live according to his will. Life as a follower of God is a life of joy and laughing and a life of walking in the light, being one who shines so that all will see it is through God our sorrow and mourning flees and through out joy all can see the glory of God.Life as a follower of God is a life of joy and laughing and a life of walking in the light, being one who shines so that all will see it is through God our sorrow and mourning flees and through out joy all can see the glory of God. Click To Tweet
Walk in the Light – sorrow and mourning flee
If we are alive then there will be times when we will suffer and hurt so deeply that we will think we cannot make it. I am not talking about physical suffering, somehow, with good medicine or stamina, or sheer strength we are able to make out way through physical suffering. But emotional suffering requires more than sheer will power to overcome.
We hurt when we see someone we love suffer, or losing someone we love to death. We are sorrowful at times if there is something in us, something that shames us that hurts if we touch it or reveal it to others and ourselves. We can hurt when what we anticipate never happens, a dream cut off, a love gone wrong, a promotion lost. We may be hurt and suffering by what we see others doing, hurting a child, treating an animal badly, striping the forest, wasting earthly resources. It is not to say these are all the same levels of sorrow and suffering, but they each can hurt and take away our joy and laughter.
We hear that it is a death or lose of a job that are the two most devastating pieces of news we can ever receive. Both have real permanent loss, a forced change that we do not chose or wish to have. In these cases we can be led to make bad decisions about how to grieve, or make choices that are not healthy for us. In some cases these losses or tragedies in our lives can lead to real clinical psychiatric illness or psychosis, e.g. depression, anxiety or others. (If we find we are experiencing these types of maladies we should seek professional help.)
Most of what we experience as this kind of sorrow can be seen as grief. Grief can have a long and drawn out time line to recovery and feeling healthy and happy again. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross outlined five stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Just seeing these stages we know overcoming grief can be overwhelming, it can be slow and includes moments of improvement and falling backward. It is not something we should go through alone.
We should recognize that grief, or sorrow and mourning is something we all have in common. At some point we all experience the kind of loss that feels like a “gut punch” which requires patience and long periods of help to recover. In this way sorrow and suffering connects us, it is something we all relate to, we all live through at some point. It is why grief counseling groups are so helpful, they are places where everyone understands what everyone is going through. Sometimes simply knowing we are not alone is helpful.
We should always have compassion and be generous to the sorrow we see in friends and family, we should even try to support strangers. Having a listening ear, and the ability to be empathetic can do so much for the person who is struggling. This is what Jesus does for us. Jesus tells us that he has gone through the same things. Even his friend John the Baptist was a great loss for Jesus. They were kindred spirits, both with a mission from God. It must have been a great loss for Jesus to experience John’s death.
At the same time Jesus is healing, he has struggled with sorrow and mourning and he knows what it is like for us to struggle. Jesus is an empathetic listening, the one who takes our sorrow and mourning and makes it lighter through shared generosity. Jesus leads us to healing. Life without Jesus is a life without hope. I struggle to understand what it would be like to lose someone close to me and not have the faith to know they are in a better place, that they suffer no more, that they are seeing the face of God. If I didn’t have this faith then I would just consider them as loss for myself and for them, we have lost each other with no upside what-so-ever.Jesus leads us to healing. Life without Jesus is a life without hope. Click To Tweet
Jesus proclaims there is hope after sorrow and mourning. There is joy and happiness, no matter how we struggle or the loss we feel. Jesus tells us all must die to come back to life, a grain of wheat must fall on the ground and die to produce lots of wheat (cf. John 12:24). It is the message of Jesus healing, death and resurrection, life after death that makes sorrow and mourning flee. We feel the loss of the thing we are grieving but we know there will be a new day, a new way, a new joy. This is the promise of Jesus coming, and new life.
Sorrow and mourning flee at the hands of Jesus, they may go slowly, and require lots of work and lots of help, but eventually they will flee. It is Jesus the healer who tells us they will go and we will live. We are richer for the experience, we grow in the loss, but ultimately we will find new joy and laughter.
Sorrow and mourning is a basic teaching of Jesus. In Matthew 5:4 Jesus tells us, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.” God is the comforter. “Blessed” is a way of saying happy. Jesus is promising those who mourn will be happy and find comfort.
We don’t like suffering, our ego prefers its own gratification. Jesus speaks of this blessing because we all do need our human spirit, pride and ego to be broken. Suffering and tears strip us of our inner “masks”, our ideas and ways of looking at things, of feeling superior and righteous. Through sorrow and mourning we can be purified, especially when we invite God and others into the process to help us. To be transformed we must face these moments of sorrow and work through them.
Who hasn’t felt their tears as a means of letting go? Tears can be the beginning of understanding we don’t have the power to keep ourselves happy on our own. We need another; friends, other disciples, Jesus. God created tears as a physical reaction, something anyone can see on us, so that we will been seen by others who can reach out and help? Turning toward God, we receive the Holy Spirit and we are set free. Sometimes it takes a sorrow for us to realize how blessed we truly are, to know how much we are loved, to know God wants us to reach out for comfort.Turning toward God, we receive the Holy Spirit and we are set free. Sometimes it takes a sorrow for us to realize how blessed we truly are, to know how much we are loved, to know God wants us to reach out for comfort. Click To Tweet
Jesus teaches us that mourning and sorrow will flee. But we have to reach out for help. We have to pray and ask for comfort. We have to be vulnerable and let others help us. We have to face it, and let our sorrow die so we can have new life. We will be stronger, we will be ready for the next time or for a friend who needs our help. Being surrounded by Jesus followers allows us to trust this process, to know we will receive compassion, we will find a helping hand.
Jesus leads us to comfort, the fleeing of sorrow and mourning. These experiences of sorrow moving toward comfort are experiences that help us grow, they also lead us to walk in the light. Fleeing sorrow is a sign pointing to the glory of God. We will say God is the one who gives me comfort. In our joy and laughter we proclaim God’s glory. We walk in the light and let our light shine on the one who loves us and wants his light to shine on all. Walk in the light in comfort. Through God we see all that ails us flee.Fleeing sorrow is a sign pointing to the glory of God. We will say God is the one who gives me comfort. In our joy and laughter we proclaim God’s glory. Click To Tweet
Walk in the light
This message of sorrow and mourning fleeing points us right back to God. To be comforted we need God and to accept God is to glorify God. Glorifying God we walk in the light. We must trust that it is God’s will, God’s plans, God’s promise that brings us to the light, a light the bathes us with comfort. Trust God, walk in the light.