The Book of Ezra begins by seeing King Cyrus' decree to release the exiles as the fulfillment of God's promise in Jeremiah 29:10 (Ezra 1:1-4). It is concerned with the first two returns, the rebuilding of the temple, and Ezra's dealing with the social and religious difficulties that faced the community. Ultimately, this is a story of redemption, but painful redemption; of return, but a return marked with grief; of rejoicing, but of a joy that is inextricably linked to the losses that came before. It is a story of ambiguous joy--and are not our lives? For that matter, is that not the core of Advent itself?