John 1:6-8, 19-28
The Christian God acts in history; God is not just an abstract concept or philosophical truth. The writer of John made the effort to localize his words—a particular time and place. The act of preaching is another instance of such localizing . . . We should be cautious but not afraid of saying … [we saw that] God has indeed been at work among us?
- Jon Keune
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
We live between that first Pentecost and the final Advent. But that means we live in the Spirit. Even in the Christmas rush, the Spirit opens us to hear these voices. Past, present, and future come into the light of God. Faith looks back to God's promises. Hope looks forward to God fulfilling them. And love is faith and hope active in the present, sharing the light here and now.
And so we can join with Isaiah, who rejoices not in what God has done but in what God promises to do in the future. And with the Magnificat, as Mary rejoices in what God is going to do in her, and speaks as if it has already happened. And St. Paul urges the Thessalonians to rejoice always, in all circumstances, anticipating the coming of our LORD Jesus Christ.
Advent joy is counting our chickens before they hatch, celebrating victory at half time with our team down fifty points. . . . When you clean the house for the coming guests, you can either hide all the junk behind closed doors and under beds, or you can hear John's call to make the way straight, which means exposing all the junk, bringing it into the light, where it can be sorted, gotten rid of, or cleansed.
Mother Mary teaches us to rejoice . . . as if each of us bore within us a new and fragile being, as if each of us carried another's greatness that makes us the fragile, lowly one that is blessed. . . .
That is cause for rejoicing. In our community of faith, in our neighborhood, good things can happen, things that last beyond the world's ephemeral holiday season, things that truly come from the holy day when Christ comes among us. It's in the light of that coming that St. Paul's voice cries out: rejoice, pray, give thanks, quench not, do not despise, test, hold fast, abstain. They all sound somewhat reachable, but on our own we can't rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, abstain from every form of evil.
It will take the God of peace to sanctify us entirely. The Spirit that anoints Jesus, the Spirit who is not quenched by our sins, the Spirit who rejoices—that same Spirit empowers us to be witnesses to testify to the light, to be God's planting, a winter garden that grows into rejoicing in righteousness and praise. For this is the year of the LORD's favor. And our spirit rejoices.
– Paul Bieber
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24