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"The Voice and Motions of the Spirit": a Reflection on Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11, Psalm 126,

1Thessalonians 5:16-24, and John 1:6-8, 19-28


This is The Third Sunday of Advent and we light the Joy Candle. Last week, The Second Sunday of Advent, the Peace Candle was lit. Two weeks ago, The First Sunday of Advent, the Hope Candle was lit. Today, the Joy Candle represents the experience in life we have because of the hope and peace that Jesus brings into the world, then and now. Experiencing the hope, peace, and joy of Jesus is essential for a new beginning for humanity and continuity for Geneva.

The story of Advent gathers you into God’s family, defines you as a family member and enlightens you. Advent empowers new beginnings throughout a Christian’s life. Believing the hope, peace, and joy offered in Jesus is critical for living as a follower of Jesus.

In the 19th century Charles Bradlaugh, a prominent atheist, challenged a Christian man to debate the validity of the claims of Christianity. The Christian was Hugh Price Hughes, an active soul-winner who worked among the poor in the slums of London. Hughes told Bradlaugh he would agree to the debate on one condition. Hughes said, “I propose to you that we each bring some concrete evidences of the validity of our beliefs in the form of men and women who have been redeemed from the lives of sin and shame by the influence of our teaching. I will bring 100 such men and women, and I challenge you to do the same.” Hughes then said that if Bradlaugh couldn’t bring 100, then he could bring 20. He finally whittled the number down to one. All Bradlaugh had to do was to find one person whose life was improved by atheism, and Hughes—who would bring 100 people improved by Christ—would agree to debate him. Bradlaugh withdrew![1]

Confusing the voice of the Spirit with the voice of the Evil One deceives one’s new beginning with Jesus Christ and continuity for Geneva. The Evil One’s voice can sound helpful, but it encourages despair, chaos, and anguish as means to a better end.

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11, Psalm 126, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24, and John 1:6-8, 19-28 announce discerning the voice of the Spirit is essential for effective Christian living.

John 1:6-8, 19-28 reminds us that our relationship with Jesus must continue to grow through ongoing new beginnings. There is nothing static in our relationship with God. The dynamic of growth always juxtaposes hope with despair, peace with chaos, and joy with anguish. All things were created in and through Jesus. With that said, Jesus is life addressing the areas of despair, chaos, and anguish in our lives. Jesus is light exposing the darkness in our lives. Jesus is truth convicting us of the falsehoods in our lives. John 1:1, 3, 6-7 read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God…All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being...There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.”[2]

         All things continue to be created in and through Jesus. And Jesus does so through the words and deeds of those who love him, words and deeds offering all, new beginnings. Jesus’ message of hope, peace and joy opposes the church’s captivity to the consumerist agenda that favors happy thought, feel good themes of God and life as a believer. The non-believer, however, is like a judge, weighing credible testimony of the witnesses to the hope, peace and joy they find in Jesus. The joy Jesus promises is the outgrowth of the acted upon promises of hope and peace which transforms the hurt, pain and weeping of real life into joy.

On this Third Sunday of Advent, we lit the Hope, Peace, and Joy Candles on the Advent wreath, lifting up the Joy Candle. God has claimed you as God’s own. Jesus gathers you into the family, defines you as a family member, and enlightens you. Much of life is a journey of letting go. You’re not defined by anything other than God’s incredible and never-ending love for you. Gainful employment, wealth, and opportunities missed or seized come and go. All that matters is that you belong to God. Gratitude for being a part of God’s family assists you in navigating the despair, chaos, and anguish of life. Joy is the outcome of acting upon Jesus’ promises of hope, peace, and joy. There is always a new beginning being offered by Jesus in grace and mercy. Amen.


[1]Submitted by Jeff Allen to preachingtoday.com. The citation is found in D. James

Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? (Thomas Nelson, 1997), 189.

[2]In the two paragraphs of textual analysis above, I have benefited from the thinking of J. Clinton McCann Jr., F. Scott Spencer, and Andrew Foster Connors in Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery, Cynthia L. Rigby and Carolyn J. Sharp, editors, Connections, Year B, Volume 1 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2020), 39-41, 46-48, 48-50.

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