Advent: JOY

Erika Kobewka, Dec 12, 2021, 4:06 AM
Erika Kobewka Worship Leader
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Third Sunday of Advent – Joy For All

"8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord." Luke 2:8-11 (NIV)

Do you find that global news apps and local media channels can feel like pretty ominous places these days? Hasn't it felt like we're all collectively and individually holding our breath? Bracing for the next shift, pivot, or new normal? Stunned and silenced by another natural disaster? Grieved as another devastating truth is unearthed and brought to light? Disoriented by a world polarized and at odds with one another? And in the midst of it all, haven't we been walking our own roads of loss? Most of the time, it can feel really heavy.

Personally, particularly during this season, I often think about what kind of world Christ was born into. In the Gospel accounts of the first Advent, we see that our Messiah was born to a young and shamed teenage mom, he was born poor and displaced, and he was born into a social system ripe with political strife and turmoil. Soon after Jesus' birth when King Herod realized he had been outwitted by the Magi, he immediately ordered the annihilation of all infant boys under the age of two. If you follow the Catholic liturgical calendar at all, you might remember that the Feast of Holy Innocents—a remembrance of those babies slaughtered at the hands of Herod—is literally waiting in the wings following Christmas Day.[1] In Luke's account of this violent tragedy, he quotes the prophet Jeremiah: "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more."[2] Infant genocide was on the heels of a world pronouncement of great joy for all peoples. A Saviour, long foretold as the One who would wipe every tear from every eye, had come to a weary and waiting world reeling with loss.

Over the last several months and even years, we as a country have come face-to-face with our own story of genocide. We witnessed the truth-telling of Indigenous families' grave losses, their own children stolen and violated at the hands of insidious systemic evils. When pondering the Biblical text surrounding Christ's birth beside these dark findings of our nation's history, my imagination wanders to the sounds of the distraught and travailing mothers that likely surrounded Mary. I imagine her trembling as she holds an infant Jesus close, weeping and grieving with those robbed of their babes, their mourning echoing across every hillside. This is the world that our Emmanuel was born into: fraught, traumatized, distressed, conflicted, and fearful. I think we have all felt these painful parallels, these dissonances and heartaches that cannot be side-stepped or ignored. They are deeply rooted in our current reality and truthfully, they are a part of the mystery of the incarnation as well. Jesus, our longed-for Messiah, was born into a grieving, suffering, and chaotic world.

The third candle of Advent is often called the Shepherd's Candle, and in contrast to the deep royal colours that traditionally surround it, the Shepherd's Candle is distinctly different and bright in its rose hue. Yes, right in the middle of this season of longing, hope, and waiting stands joy—wide awake to the pain and sufferings of the human experience.

I marvel at who God chose to be the first recipients of this joyous news. In a society that intrinsically valued moral cleanliness, shepherds were considered tainted and impure and as a result were among the most marginalized. The angel announces Christ's coming as good news for all, but to begin, this message lands distinctly upon the ears of the poor. Lisa Sharon Harper reminds us that if one's good news "falls mute when facing those who need good news the most—the oppressed, the impoverished, and the broken,"[3] then it truly is not good news at all. I wonder if Christ's coming was announced to the rejected and excluded, not as salt on an open wound but as a salve saying, "Here too, here especially, God-with-us."

Far from being commercialized, contrived, or sentimental, the joy of Advent clings onto this hopeful reality that in Christ Jesus, God continues to step into our suffering, disordered, and aching reality to restore and set things right. In a world fraught with discord, restlessness, violence, and animosity, joy can stand nose-to-nose and toe-to-toe with grief. Joy can hold the hands of grief, and neither are slighted or disingenuous. Truly, the joyous light of Christ's coming does not silence or hush grief, rather, our Saviour chose to be born right in the midst of these shadowy places.

[1] Robert E. Webber, Ancient Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2004), 68.
[2] Luke 2:18 (NIV)
[3] Lisa Sharon Harper, The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right. (Colorado Springs, Colorado: WaterBrook Press, 2016), 14.

For Erika Kobewka, Arden Kobewka and Kris MacQueen, this project has been a wonderful labour of love. Erika wrote "Word Of God" a number of years ago, and it has organically spread across the country, already finding a place in the worship times of many Vineyard churches. It will release "properly" as a single across all digital platforms in early January, but we wanted to get this to your ears and into your heart during the advent season, so we've created a lyric video, premiering today. Give a listen and you'll know why we couldn't wait any longer. This is a song for today. Special thanks to all who contributed your voices to this song. Such a special moment.