Hooray, we get a gospel reading today, it feels quite refreshing after all those Old Testament prophecies!
Some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’? “They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”
Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no-one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.
“Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”
John 16:17-28 (NIV)
I was struggling to think of something to say about today’s passage. I asked my friends on Twitter what they thought Jesus meant by our joy ‘being complete’. I got this reply from my friend Carol:
@vahva john 16:23 eh? but “joy” by definition is complete, the ultimate. Nearly as cryptic:”joy of the LORD is your strength” Nehemiah 8:10
— Carol Long (@fixing_projects) December 14, 2011
I think she’s right, joy in itself is a complete thing. It’s like a bubble bursting, it’s not a slow burning thing. This made me think about Simeon and how his ‘joy is complete’ on seeing the Christ child (see last year’s Advent-ure Calendar post about this here).
Jesus uses the analogy of the pain of childbirth leading to the joy of a child being born. One that’s more familiar to me is the waiting when you’ve been parted from a loved one for them to return – followed by the joy of a reunion. I remember really looking forward to seeing my then boyfriend (now husband) after I had been away in Estonia for the most part of a year – meeting at the airport was just magical.
Jesus is talking about, I think, both his resurrection and his coming again when he is speaking to the disciples here – something we look forward to in Advent. We can be joyful because Jesus is Risen but our joy will be even more complete when He comes again in glory.
This video is one of my favourite YouTube videos ever, as you watch it, look at the joy on the faces, consider how your joy is complete in Christ. Pray for your mourning to turn to joy.