Joy: Hope Fulfilled
-Rev Melissa Fain-
14 Rejoice, Daughter Zion! Shout, Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem.
15 The Lord has removed your judgment;
he has turned away your enemy.
The Lord, the king of Israel, is in your midst;
you will no longer fear evil.
16 On that day, it will be said to Jerusalem:
Don’t fear, Zion.
Don’t let your hands fall.
17 The Lord your God is in your midst—a warrior bringing victory.
He will create calm with his love;
he will rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:14-17 CEB
My most difficult classes for my music degree were my diction classes. It required understanding and reading IPA. (International Phonetic Alphabet). I failed English/Italian diction, and after passing it the second time, barely passed French/German. While I still struggle speaking French, (who doesn't, ami' right?) I knew my IPA backwards and forwards. I knew it well enough, I began using it outside of music to remember pronunciation. Understanding how words were built, and I took those tools to seminary.
Flash forward to my very last semester in seminary. I was taking Hebrew, and it required reading and speaking the words. The professor announced, during the very first class, we would need to write out the words phonetically. I was super enthusiastic. I knew phonetics. I could write out the phonetics with my eyes shut and one hand tied behind my back. Then the worst realization hit me as I was going through our text book. Their phonetic alphabet was not the IPA I knew backwards and forwards. This was like using another language to learn another language. I couldn't do it.
Now, almost 38 year old me would ask to speak privately with the professor and explain the barrier. Not my 29 year old self. I was too stubborn. Instead, I powered through, did this massive extra-credit assignment, and squeaked through with a C.
The whole time my husband could see the struggle as I stared at the Hebrew, and looked at my IPA- hopelessly comparing my diction book to my Hebrew book.. "If I fail this," I lamented, "I can't graduate this semester!"
After the class was finished, I stalked Candler's website, continually checking my grades to see how I did. I can still remember the feeling the day the grade was there, and seeing I did indeed pass the class. We celebrated that night with our meager earnings. Then, Christmas Eve came. My husband proudly passed the gift to me. I opened it, and saw a Dreidel ornament. It was perfect. The culmination of years of sacrifice from all of us, and hard work. It was a moment of shared joy.
Before this whole ministry thing, there was a moment where I realized my call. It happened as my high school self sat and expressed the anxiety of feeling that call to the first female minister I'd ever met. I knew it was going to be extremely difficult, and a ton of hard work, but I knew it could be done. Passing Hebrew was a moment of hope fulfilled.
That's Christmas hope. When our hopes begin to come true, we can't help but feel the joy attached to that. We celebrate and share in a moment of happiness.
Let us pray: Patient God, thank you for fulfilled hope. Amen.