3rd Week of Advent: He Gathers Us!
He Will Do All the Good Things He has promised!
He will gather (JOY)
† I.H.S. †
I pray that the mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so overwhelm you, that all you can do is rejoice as you think of His coming…even as God does!
How Can I….Know this Joy
A pastor once wrote,
Day by day we encounter the world of visible things. It assaults us through billboards, broadcasts, traffic, and all the activities of daily life, to such an enormous extent that we are tempted to assume there is nothing else but this[i]
Sometimes I feel like that, like all of world that I encounter wants to assault me, attack me, trample all over me.
I so understand those words, that we assume there is nothing else but this….
And this week, when the darkness of the dark “blue” weeks of Advent are interrupted, as if a hint of a new day were peaking through, even as the darkness still threatens, we are encouraged to rejoice. Not just look forward to the day of rejoicing… but to rejoice.
Now, today, even as we struggle with world events, with national and local problems; as we struggle with our finances, or families or maybe it is just our personal struggles, we are urged to sing and shout praises, to be glad and rejoice with everything in our hearts and minds and souls. We are called to cheer up, and not be afraid.
Thank God that He gives us a reason too…
The people that rejoice in the presence of God are described in the following ways,
Those who need to be calmed, for they are afraid and anxious,
Those who mourn as they consider the state of appointed festivals like Christmas, and how they have become less about God and His people.
The people who will rejoice are those who are oppressed, to those who are weak and helpless.
Those who were chased away, or exiled.
This is referring to those who were run out of the camp in the days of the Exodus, who were cut off from the people of God because of their sin, yet will be welcomed back and restored.
Those who were exiled because of their sin and shame, for they too will be drawn back by God and restored.
Yeah, those who will rejoice in Jesus’s coming will include those who are burdened by shame and guilt, but who will be called by a new name, who will be given a new name, whose life will be restored. The prodigals who return, those crushed by their sin. For that is what Jesus does, as He was lifted up on the cross.
Lifted there because Jesus wasn’t just called a friend to tax collectors and sinners, He is a friend to them. And lifted up on the cross, the very image of God’s mercy and grace, He draws people to Him, as He desires.
Gather, for the Lord Will Live Among US
The pastor quoted earlier, who talked about the world assaulting us, following those words with these,
One single soul, in Pascal’s beautiful words, (your soul) is worth more (to God) than the entire visible universe. But in order to have a living awareness of this, we need conversion, we need to turn around inside, as it were, to overcome the illusion of what is visible, and to develop the feeling, the ears and the eyes, for what is invisible. This has to be more important than anything that bombards us day after day with such exaggerated urgency. Metanoeite: change your attitude, so that you may see God’s presence in the world—change your attitude, so that God may dwell in you and, through you, in the world.
There is the key to seeing where our joy comes from, in the midst of a world that will try to make life a living hell.
Realizing the worth of a single soul, your soul, to God.
And that is why we are gathered by God together. For in this Old Testament prophecy, over and over it mentions this promise – six times! – the fact that God will gather His people together, that He will make things right, and twice more just so we understand, he explains that happens as God lives in the midst of His people.
God living among His people
God gathering His people together
God living among His people
23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” Matthew 1:23 (NLT)
The apostle John said it this way,
14 The Word became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived among us. We saw his glory, the glory which he received as the Father’s only Son. John 1:14 (TEV)
The hardest thing to get theologically is a concept known as “now, and not yet.”
Jesus has been lifted up, He has drawn us into Himself in His death, and in our baptism, bringing us into life everlasting. We celebrate now the feast that is the first taste of the feast to come. We can live free of the guilt and shame, free of what separated us from God.
We don’t see it yet, but we get glimpses of it. As we gather, and as we do, our hearts should cry out His praises, for He is our Savior. And I want you to hear one more “now and not yet
For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
Know this, like the prodigal’s father, our Father rejoices as we are gathered into His presence… that is His love and mercy… AMEN!
[i] Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 391). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.