Icon of John from Tim at God Has a Sense of Humour.Here we are in the third Sunday of Lent and in our community (and perhaps in yours) we will be lighting the pink Advent Candle of Joy on Sunday.
You can find links to this week's lectionary texts here.
At first glance, the gospel text doesn't offer much reason for joy. But John C Morris invites a deeper look when he writes that "underneath the holy fire is holy joy. If the Baptizer can be described as a killjoy, it is because the joy that he kills is the false joy of manufactured sentimentality and superficial jolliness. Underneath John's stern message is the good news that a better world is possible by the grace and power of God."
So, maybe like Isaiah you will "joyfully draw water from the well of salvation" or "rejoice in the Lord always," as exhorted by Paul.
Of course, you might be aware of some in your congregation who have a hard time accessing any joy - holy or otherwise - at this time of year. For those who are stressed, ill, lonely or grieving, these last few weeks before Christmas can heighten rather than diminish those difficult emotions. As preachers, how do we make our worship spaces into safe places for those who just cannot find any joyful space in their heart?
Perhaps then we could turn to Zephaniah (Zephaniah! Have you ever preached on Zephaniah? I know I never have.). God's promise to the outcast "I will bring you home," might provide a glimmer a joy for one who feels cast out by the emotional expectations of the season.
These are my thoughts so far. What direction are headed? Maybe you are wrapping up a three week mini-series on John this week and it's a week for tying it all together. Maybe the Baptist's strong words will help you speak a hard truth that you have been needing to share with your congregation. Or maybe the hearts and minds of your community are turned already to the Christ child coming, and this is a week for a pageant or cantata.
And, as always, your ideas for the rest of the liturgy - prayers, childrens times and hymn suggestions are always welcome, too. Check in in the comments, or post a link to your musings at your own blog.