Joy Sunday says it all. The third Sunday of Advent is marked by the pink- or rose-colored candle in the wreath in many traditions. It is the one where we are reminded of the news that shall be a great joy to all people—the news that Emmanuel is born, God with us. And we stand in the promise even today, even here, in this place, in your place – God is with you. There can be no greater joy than that.
To help us, we have a psalm of joy and praise, 146. And we have a familiar and beautiful chapter from the prophet Isaiah who reminds us that we are on the way. We are traveling the Lord’s Highway today. We may not yet be all that we can be; we may not yet have reached our destination as the people of God, but we are on the way. We are a pilgrim people, singing our songs of ascent as we go up into the glorious presence of God, even as we are already embraced by our God every step of the way. So, let’s rejoice today. Let us claim the gift of joy, even in the struggles of a difficult world, even as we pray for those who are hurting, who are grieving, who are lost and alone. We celebrate; we are joyful because our God has promised healing and wholeness.
If we’ve held off the Christmas songs in favor of the promise of Advent, then today would be the day to break out “Joy to the World!” Today would be the day to sing “Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates” about the one who is coming to dwell with us, to claim us and heal us and to send us. Let joy, which has been a part of this whole Advent series, now be the center stage, the dominant mood, as we gather.
There is also the journey, the highway Isaiah speaks of so wonderfully. How can we depict that road in our sanctuary today? What hints can we give of journeying, of the pilgrimage that marks our way through the life we have been given to live? We may not be coming forward for Communion this week, but can there be a procession of prayer or song? Can we make our way forward to pray before the Table of the Lord? Can we move this week, around the wreath, around the sanctuary? We’re on the way, and we celebrate that traveling as we worship. Going up to sing praise.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.