An Advent Reflection
The theme of the third week of Advent in our parish is “The Promise of Joy” from last Sunday’s readings. Today’s advent verse is from the section of the book of Isaiah thought to be spoken to the people of Judea in the weary years after the exile in Babylon.
“But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
and its people as a delight.” — Isaiah 65:18
Isaiah 65 contains an exquisite vision of the world renewed, free from the sorrows that plague our existence in a world of clashing empires, frail bodies and simple cruelties. The text calls it “a new heaven and a new earth,” but it is more appropriate to describe it as a world reborn. It is not like a new car that replaces a junked old one, but a marriage made new after years of struggle, or a friendship reconciled after years of estrangement.
Through the prophet God invites us to rejoice in what God is creating – and declares that what God is creating is joy.
Specifically, God is creating Jerusalem a joy. The city that had been destroyed. The city that had lost its glory, whose walls had been torn down, whose temple had been desecrated, whose people carried off. It became as Aleppo. But God will make it a joy.
This is a deep and abiding theme of scripture: God is a God who creates, who opens doors, who calls things into being by his word. He calls forth the world from the primal chaos. He summons a people out from bondage. He calls Israel into justice and mercy through Moses and the prophets. He calls exiles home. He will make the desolate city a joy. He brings new birth to the world. He brings newness to our lives. He brings joy.
It was not easy for the people at the end of the 6th century bce to imagine the rubble of Jerusalem as a city of joy. And maybe not for us in our time. But we live by and for and into the promise of joy, for this restlessly creating God who brought light and life into the chaos and opened the path through the sea, opens even the grave.