“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desire.” Psalm 37:4
On a recent Sunday morning, I was struck by a phrase, or more precisely a word, from the service of the Holy Eucharist Rite II that I have said thousands and thousands of times before. The word was “delight.” It happened as I prayed the prayer of confession and said “that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways” (BCP, p. 360).
I asked myself, what would it truly mean to “delight” in God’s will? Have you ever stopped to think about what it might mean for you to “delight” in God’s will? In this Advent season, is that a question we should try to answer for ourselves?
In Latin, the words for “love” and “delight” are almost synonyms. This is particularly so when one compares the third person, past tense of the verb love, dilexit, with the third person, present tense of the verb delight, delectat. We derive the English word delectable from that. Dilexit and delectat sound quite similar to each other. In John 3:16, perhaps the most often quoted verse of the Gospel of John, we read that, “God so loved (dilexit) the world that God gave God’s only begotten Son….” What we find delectable, I suppose we could also say, we love. So, I do not think it is beyond any stretch of the imagination to say that God delights in all creation and therefore God delights in you.
Throughout the Old Testament, we read of the delight people have for God’s Torah. Torah is perhaps best translated not as “law” but as “instruction” or “teaching.” God’s Torah sets forth the path on which God’s people walk. The best illustration of this is found in Psalm 119 in which we read that God’s word is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). The psalmist also takes particular delight in God’s law or teachings, writing, “I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight (Psalm 119:174) and “Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight” (Psalm 119:77).
Near the end of the Advent season, as we approach Christmas, we focus our attention on the Virgin Mary. What did Mary make of the words of the Angel Gabriel: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus?” (Luke 1:30-31). Was Mary able at that moment to delight in God’s will for her? Her response — her “yes” to God, —“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word,” (Luke 1:38) indicates that she was. At the time, Mary had no idea what her willing acceptance of God’s will might mean for her. Nonetheless, she said “yes.” Mary chose to delight in God’s will and to walk in God’s ways. Her delight in God’s will serves as a model for all Christians.
As you prepare for the Advent season, keep in mind the opening exhortation of the Advent Festival of Lessons and Carols:
“Beloved in Christ, in this season of Advent, let it be our care and delight to prepare ourselves to hear again the message of the Angels, and in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem, to see the Babe lying in the manger.”
May we, like Mary, delight in God’s will and to walk in God’s ways
God so delights in you. In this blessed Advent season may you find your delight in God.