Sunday, December 12, 2021

And They Shall Rejoice

Today we light the third candle on the Advent wreath. It is traditionally called the Gaudete candle—the candle of rejoicing.

What does “rejoice” even mean? It is not a word we use often in modern English. To rejoice is to “feel or show great joy or delight.”

But if you’re anything like me, these last years of the pandemic have made rejoicing pretty difficult. The things we celebrate have changed. We might rejoice over routine accomplishments like getting out of bed in the morning; or feel joy over a delicious cup of tea or coffee; we can shout for joy over a negative COVID test.

But I think the Christian tradition of rejoicing goes deeper than that. This past Spring our church did a sermon series through the book of Zechariah (not to be confused with the Zechariah of Luke 1 and 2).

Prophesying to the people after their return from the exile in Babylon, Zechariah provided messages pertaining to both their immediate and distant future. Mixed among the themes of rebuilding the temple are some of the clearest and most numerous passages about the Messiah in the minor prophets. Zechariah brings messages of hope and restoration for the people of God—exactly what they need after being apart from God’s presence for so long.

And so that is one of their first goals: to rebuild the temple, the dwelling place of the Lord. Enter Zerubbabel, from the line of David, and governor of Judah. Quickly he sets to work on reconstruction. Funny how so many from this kingly line find their occupations tied to the building of this temple. And it was so, until the final descendant, Jesus Christ, will build for us a new temple, and eternal place with Him.

But Zerubabbel just as fallible as his ancestors, and so God reminds him: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6b). The people’s expectations of what a rebuilt city should look like were so small and basic compared to what God had in mind.

“The Christian life is being called to be a craftsman,” our pastor explains. “None of our work done in faith, is done in vain. God’s design has no limits.”
And so, God spoke to Zechariah:
“The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line [a measuring tool] in the hand of Zerubbabel.” (Zechariah 4:9-10a)
For whoever despised the day of small things shall rejoice. Great joy and delight. Not from anything the people accomplished, but all from the Lord.

Do you ever wonder at Jesus’ earthly occupation? Scripture tells us he was a carpenter or tradesman. He built things with His own two hands. Can you imagine?

In her book, Prayer in the Night, Tish Harrison Warren reflects on this idea. She says,
“Jesus spent time, decades even, building stuff. Jesus was a tradesman. A builder who used his hands. God came to earth and apparently thought it worth his while to take some wood or stone or metal and make something. What did he make? We have no idea. Apparently nothing earth shattering enough to have kept around. But in this dark world, where men and women were dying, or the poor were suffering, where injustice raged in a vast and violent empire, God became flesh and built some furniture. During all those decades that he spent building things, he wasn't preaching, healing, or clearing out temples. He wasn't starting a movement or raising the dead. The light came into the darkness and did ordinary work. All of Jesus’ work brought redemption. Not just the work that odd the crowds, the feeding of the multitude, the sermon on the mount, the raising of Jairus’ is daughter, but also his quiet craft. (eBook, p. 233-234)
And with each finished product, I imagine Him rejoicing and saying, “and it was good!”

We may never see the fruit of God’s movement in our lives, but as a collective body of Christ, we will know and celebrate the work. So take courage and rejoice, your labors of faith are not in vain.

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