Silence. No words. No explanations. No answers. Just troubles multiplied upon troubles. Nothing to be said. Nothing to be heard. For seven days and seven nights. For four hundred years. For nine months. Joy comes in the mourning.
Sometimes the journey takes a twist. Irony enters the story. The liturgy of this week invites us to rejoice. To rejoice with Elizabeth and Zechariah who went from barrenness to fruitfulness. To remember Mary’s Magnificat. To hear the angels bring glad tidings of great joy.
Really? Now? Rejoice?
I need definition and meaning. The dictionary offers delight as a meaning for joy. It falls hollow. Further down under antonyms, rejoice juxtaposes with lament.
Lament feels better. Feels like the right word. First, Jeremiah comes to mind as the great lamenter. He expressed his grief through prophetic and poetic language. And then I think of Job, whose name is one letter short of joy. And whose life joys were destroyed by death.
Yet, joy surfaces in the language of lament. Strange.
As we journey closer to Bethlehem, I plan to take a side trip to the land of Uz, to better understand how joy can even be mentioned in the midst of devastation. Dare you join me?
When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. Job 2:11-13 NIV