Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Uncontainable Joy

I have four children. The oldest is ten, and the youngest is two. I vaguely remember how excited I was when my first child was born, when she rolled over, when she crawled, when she babbled, when she took that first step, when she went to preschool, and when she lost her first tooth. I don't remember sharing any of those moments on Facebook, but I do remember being filled to the brim and overflowing with love and gratitude and excitement that my child was going through all of those things.

Of course, my two-year-old has had none of that. Sure, there are moments of celebration, but, when you're the fourth one to take that first step, you'd probably be thankful if both parents even noticed. Because it's been ten years since my first child went through all of that, I tend to roll my eyes when I see others posting exuberant videos on social media of their children's first everythings, but I understand where that joy comes from. I have known that joy. I still remember that joy. Secretly, I still harbor that joy at each of my children's moments even if I don't broadcast them to the world.

On Sunday, when we hear the words of Isaiah the poet-prophet, we hear words of rejoicing that cannot be contained:
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
In the Episcopal Church, we read the same lessons every year on the First Sunday after Christmas Day, which means this song of Isaiah is always sung during Christmas. Although the prophet had no idea about Jesus, about the Incarnation, about the birth of a savior-messiah in Bethlehem, or about the redemptive sacrifice that the Son of God would endure on the cross, these words of uncontainable joy are appropriate for us to sing at Christmas.

When God sent God's Son to be born of a virgin and to take our human nature upon himself, all of creation exulted in God because God has clothed us in the garments of salvation. Although experienced in a different age and through a different medium, the prophet knows what it means for the whole earth to celebrate God's deliverance: "For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations." The prophet can say without hesitation or equivocation that God's distressed-but-now-rescued people will be "a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord." These are the words of a prophet who cannot contain his celebration. Are they our words?

Christmas has come once more. Presents have been opened. Churches have been decorated and undecorated. School is still on holiday, and parents are becoming exasperated with the round-the-clock attention that their children require. But are we sill singing with the joy of the Incarnation? Are we still in touch with the salvation that God has brought to the earth in the birth of God's Son?

Let these words ring out in our churches and in our hearts this Sunday. Let them be our own uncontainable joy. Jesus is born! Salvation has come! May we shine with that light to the ends of the earth!

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