Joy is this weeks Advent theme. I find this typically the easiest for people to get. However, Joy doesn’t just come from when we are happy in the scriptures. The word of God also adds the layer of being joyful despite what may be happening. There is a joy that you experience because your God’s beloved.
The Scripture reading associated this year with the third week in Advent start with John the Baptist calling the people, “A brood of vipers.” The text talks a lot about judgment and what is to come. People ask John how they can live their lives in response to God’s coming presence in the world.
The scripture for Advent, (Luke 3:7-18) ends with John the Baptist describing who he is and who the Messiah will be. He talks about Jesus coming to baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. Then comes the part that should bring us much joy. “His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn.” Now I am a guy from the suburbs, so I am not familiar with anything agricultural. When I looked up what “chaff” is I found this particular piece of scripture full of hope and joy. Chaff is what is connected to the grain of wheat. The grain is what we want and like to make other delicious food with, while the chaff is the light outer part that protects it. Think of it like the husk of corn. In this imagery painted by John the Messiah, who we know today is Jesus, will come and separate the chaff from the wheat. At first glance, you might think this is talking about people shedding the mortal flesh bags and becoming spiritual beings of some sort. However, the Christian hope is a bodily resurrection. Jesus did not come back as a ghost or spirit. Jesus’ resurrected body ate, drank, and could be touched.
Instead, I think John’s words are talking about something more close to our hearts. Jesus wants the best parts of us, the “real” us if you will. Not the fake persona we put on, not our defensive walls we put up, not our broken selves that have created an image of ourselves for the world to see, but the real us. The joy comes from knowing that Jesus wants to know and love us. The joy comes in that we don’t have to pretend to be something we are not with Jesus. Jesus is not coming to redeem part of me or the best part of me. No, Jesus is coming to redeem me and is leaving all nonessential, broken, defensive parts of me behind.
The message there is joy in knowing there will be no need for protection and defense in new creation as we walk for Jesus. There is no need to hide ourselves because we are already loved.
That’s good news. That is joyous news!