Scripture Focus: Ezra 6:22
22 For seven days they celebrated with joy the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because the Lord had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.
19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”
Reflection: Doubt and Joy — Joy of Advent
By Erin Newton
The eye of God was watching over the Israelites as they were threatened by local enemies. But I bet they were scared, anxious, and nervous. The older generation, the ones who wept at the sight of the temple foundation, carried the burdens of trauma. They remembered being forcibly taken from their land. They watched their cities be razed to the ground. The Babylonians attempted to remove their cultural identity.
The king who granted permission for them to rebuild was not the same king they appealed to now. They probably worried about how he would react. Would he honor the decision of a former king? Would he retaliate by creating a new, restrictive law? Would he ignore them?
God’s people had been through the valley of the shadow of death. They became prisoners of war when the Babylonians destroyed Judah. A foreign king terrorized their lives. Could they trust another king to be different?
Trauma sets a person on edge. It is easy to become hypervigilant and skeptical. Worst-case scenarios run through the mind. What might happen?
When Jesus was born, Herod pursued the newborn king with tyrannical fury. He didn’t hesitate to kill other children to get to Jesus. Mary and Joseph carried the weight of that moment. It was a time of anxiety and fear. What will God do?
Their relocation to Egypt was not permanent. God removed the threat through natural causes. Herod died. In a dream, God sent a messenger to tell them it was safe to go home.
Sometimes God works in miraculous ways. For the Israelites who were rebuilding the temple, the answer to their appeal to Darius was better than anyone expected. Permission to rebuild was confirmed but also expanded. God inclined the heart of Darius to fully fund the costs of construction and grant protection from any further interference. A feast of joy ensued.
God works through his creation. Sometimes the answer is time and waiting for change. God works through miracles. Sometimes the answer is a baby born of a virgin or a foreign king financing the construction of a temple he would never use.
Joy, at times, feels out of reach. We worry; we fear; we doubt. How can this all work out? Isn’t he supposed to be watching over us? The joy of Advent is wrestling with our questions and waiting for God to answer.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
I will exalt you, O God my King, and bless your Name forever and ever. — Psalm 145.1
Ezra 6 (Listen 4:24)
Revelation 5 (Listen 2:39)
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Read more about One Worth Rejoicing In — Joy of Advent
The Lord is coming, who is our source of victory and joy. We are waiting for him and he is searching for us.