Joy to the world

Third Sunday of Advent (December 11, 2011)
Common Lectionary Readings:
I Thess. 5:16-24; Is. 61:1-4, 8-11; Ps. 126; John 1:6-8, 19-28

This week we visited with MCC Jordan partners and hosted a Christmas dinner for MCC Jordan staff.

Cindy finalized Global Family project plans with the Orthodox Educational Society (which operates a kindergarten in Amman) and the Arab Episcopal School (which operates a school that integrates blind, low-vision and sighted students in Irbid). She also attended a Christmas program hosted by the YWCA Jordan.

Shoroq, Nada and Dina at MCC Jordan Christmas dinner

On Saturday evening, we celebrated Christmas with MCC staff and Jordanian alumni of the International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP). We shared an abundance of food and fun. We also shared favorite Christmas traditions and movies, and told which character from the first Christmas story we would have chosen to be.

Now that she's reached her due date, we expect to see more pix with Sydney's eyes opened

December 11 is the due date for Sydney. Instead, she has been with us for six weeks already and is growing cuter by the day! Cindy will fly to Virginia over Christmas to meet and hold Sydney.

In the region this week:

Protesters across Jordan continued their weekly calls for ending corruption and economic injustices in the Kingdom. Meanwhile inter-tribal violence on university campuses in Jordan has been a growing issue.

Two Palestinians died in an Israeli airstrike on a crowded Gaza street. A second attack resulted in one death and 20 injuries.

An Israeli air strike in Gaza City killed two young Palestians whom Israel says were planning an attack (Reuters photo)

-Iran displayed pictures of a captured a U.S. spy plane and the United States launched a “virtual embassy” in Iran, as a propaganda war between the countries intensifies.

-The situation in Syria continued to deteriorate.

Dr. Rowan Williams, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, made headlines with his speech saying that Christians in the Middle East are “more vulnerable” than they have been for centuries.

The Common Lectionary readings for this third Sunday of Advent are about rejoicing.

“Rejoice always,” Paul admonishes, “pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thess. 5:6-18) One reason for rejoicing: God is faithful to keep our spirit, soul and body sound until the coming of Jesus Christ (vv. 23-24).

“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,” Isaiah proclaims, “my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness.” (Is. 61:10) God’s servant will bring good news to the oppressed, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners (v.1).

“The Lord has done great things for us,” the psalmist observes, “and we rejoiced.” (Ps. 126:3). Acknowledging that there have been times of painful exile, the psalmist nevertheless concludes: “Those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.” (v.5)

In the Gospel reading, John the Baptist rejoices in his calling: “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” (John 1:23).

The Lectionary readings offer hopeful reminders that, even in painful and difficult times – perhaps especially in painful and difficult times – we can still rejoice. Not for the difficulties and pain, but because God is faithful to heal wounds, to bring justice and to restore peace.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room.

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