Advent Candle Liturgy 3: Joy

The next in the series of candle liturgies that we will be using tomorrow in Dundonald Methodist. It has an extra poignancy in the light of the events in Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut yesterday evening. A number of people have been tweeting and facebooking Psalm 30:5 'weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning". I would doubt there is much joy in Newtown this morning, or for many mornings to come. But I think that a number of those posting are perhaps influenced by the scene in the West Wing where President Bartlett speaks spontaneously on this verse following a bombing in a college, talking not about retribution but about redeeming a chaotic society, where there is underinvestment in schools and a prevailing culture of violence. Those are words that are appropriate not only in the wake of the atrocity in Newtown, but the violence on our own streets in recent days.

Over the past two weeks we have lit the first two candles, one for hope and one for peace. Today we light the third candle, the candle of joy.
Surely this should be the easy one, because joy is all around us, the lights, the music, the parties, the food, the drink. But for some this is a time where many feel that they are out of sync with the world because of bereavement, loneliness, depression or for other reasons. But Christian joy is much deeper than the superficial celebrations of this season. It is joy in the face of sadness and suffering, despair and defeat.
The prophet Isaiah wrote:
The ransomed of the Lord will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
 Isaiah 51:11 (ANIV)
(The first three candles are lit as the congregation sings the following verse and chorus of "O Come, O come Emmanuel")
O come, you son of David, come 
and lead us to our heavenly home; 
upon our journey give relief,
bring joy in place of pain and grief. 
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel 
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
Latin 13th century translated by John M Neale (1818-1866) Jubilate Hymns version adapted
Loving God, in this time of watching and waiting, 
We thank you for the hope and peace and joy that is ours in you.
We pray that you may reveal to us the healing power of hope,
Embed within us that peace that is much more than the absence of conflict
And fill us to overflowing with that joy that cannot be contained.
May our memories of the past and our preparations for the future
Not squeeze the joy out of the present moment.
May we rejoice in you and in your salvation at all times.
Let the hosts of heavens be jubilant, and all creation sing for joy.

Benediction (for the end of the service)
We began this service reflecting on the joy that is ours through Jesus Christ our Lord:
Rejoice in the Lord always,
I will say it again rejoice.
Go forth in hope and in peace,
and may your joy be complete.
Families rejoice with the birth of a baby
And the good news of Advent is this:
The Christ Child is coming.
AMEN. Come Lord Jesus



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