Finding Joy: Part 2
Well, I successfully made it through this morning's service. Nervousness aside, I have to say that I enjoyed the experience. Of course it's all the much better when you are surrounded by people that you know and care about.
For those who weren't there, here's the rest of the "sermon"
For those who weren't there, here's the rest of the "sermon"
Today we lit the 4th Advent candle. The circle is complete as the candles of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love are now glowing; only the center candle, the Christ candle is left; leaving us waiting with eager anticipation for his birth. I find it interesting that the color of Advent and Lent are both purple, which happens to be my favorite color. (Some churches now use blue candles in their wreath to differentiate between the two seasons. This is what we did last Advent, I’m not convinced that it had to do all that much with differentiation between the two seasons as with getting Advent wreath candles at the last minute, but I am glad to see that purple is back this year.) In my mind, it makes perfect sense they should both be represented by the color purple as Advent and Lent are periods that lead up to a time of great joy, love and even peace. For the four weeks of Advent we prepare for birth of Christ, while the period of Lent lets us reflect on Christ’s forthcoming death and his REBIRTH. The two seasons may seem so different, and yet they are both very similar. The promise of birth or rebirth brings us hope, joy, love and peace.
Different churches, even within our own denomination, have different opinions on which Sunday during Advent is Hope, Peace, Joy or Love. No matter what week of the four is designated for Hope, Peace, Joy and Love, these lights on this advent wreath shine in the darkness and represent what is to come.
While we may all approach the coming holiday in different way, we all spend a great deal of time in preparation. I know that what I really need to do in this time of preparation is to sit back, relax and actually ENJOY this advent season and the Christmas that is to come. Advent’s original intent was for the faithful to quietly prepare for the coming of Christ. To stop, slow down. Look. Listen. Find joy in the presence of God. But I confess that no matter how good my intentions are, this hasn’t happened yet and most likely never will.
Several weeks ago the Reverend Dr. Julia Dawson spoke about time and how we try to manage every second of it; sometimes forgetting that we need time for our own spirituality. She might have well just have written her sermon just for me. For every year, and this year has been no different, I get so wrapped up in the hustle and bustle that I forget to embrace the joy of the season. I forget that this is a time of hope, joy, peace and love. With the recent snow and the cold, am I too busy complaining to see the beauty of the season? I don’t know if there is anyone else out there who is as guilty as I am of being so caught up in cleaning and decorating, sending holiday cards and wrapping presents, more cleaning and more decorating, cooking and baking and even more cleaning and so forth, but on the off chance that there is, I thought NOW is the perfect time to forget all that. Today is the 4th Sunday in Advent and Christmas is almost here; why not make NOW the time to relax and bask in the joy; to embrace the love the comes in the form of a tiny baby? To remember and reflect on what this time is really about.
I say NOW because until this very moment, where has there been time? Why haven’t I allowed myself to make the time to slow down? Although I may have listened to Julie’s wonderful sermon, why haven’t I applied her words to my life? Why am I running myself ragged and not slowing down? I’m beginning to think that I am turning into the Grinch…you know the one who stole Christmas. There’s a phrase in the story that really resonates with me. “For tomorrow, he knew…All the Who girls and boys would wake bright and early. They’d rush for their toys! And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise! There’s the one thing he hated! The NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!” Am I alone in getting caught up with all the “Noise” of the holiday that like the Grinch I forget to stop, see and listen to the true meaning of the holiday? Do I need to be shown like him that there’s more to Christmas than decorations, presents and of course a roast beast? What do I need, to be shown that, “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more.” What do I need, what do you need to find the joy?
During Advent and Christmas where do we find this joy? We know what is coming, so why don’t we stop to embrace the joy and love that God gives us in the birth of Jesus Christ? This is why I am hoping that today we all will take some time, even if it is only for a few minutes to find it.
The angels proclaimed their news of great joy with loud hosannas. As it says in Luke 2:
" And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."
Behold, I bring you tidings of great joy. Let’s not forget that. There is joy all round us. We are blessed with joy right in this very church. Look around you, can you see the love and joy that bursts forth from this very room? The beautiful decorations that have been so carefully placed…take a second now and really look at them. Have we really listened to the choir singing beautiful anthems so lovingly selected by Charlotte Cunningham? Did we embrace the childish joy and delight in Christina’s children’s message? In every corner of this room there is joy and love. Allow yourself to take a moment to embrace it.
And know that there is more to come, today and throughout the season. It can be anywhere…even in coffee hour where we share fellowship, joy and of course delicious food that has been laid out with love.
For me, joy comes today in the form of our guest musician, Robbin Gordon Cartier. When she played “Go Tell It on the Mountain” my heart leapt with joy. My holiday would be incomplete without your gift of music Robbin and I am so glad that you are here again this year to share that gift and your joy with us.
Joy can also come in quiet moments. Those moments that are often rare when we are caught up with everyday life. A simple joy I have had since childhood is reading a Christmas Is a Time of Giving by Joan Walsh Anglund. I can’t recall a time that this little red book was not part of our family’s house. I don’t know where it came from or who bought it, but I know that when I moved it moved with me. I think the author captures all that advent prepares us for with few words, but much love. So even though it’s considered a children’s story, I wanted to share it with you.
“Christmas is a time of giving.
It is a time of wrapping gifts
And making cookies…
A time of presents, tucked in secret places…
And of children waiting.
It is a time of toys and drums and dolls..
A time of holly and lights…
And golden tinsel and green pine boughs
It is a time of stars and midnight…
And soft prayers whispered in the dark.
Christmas is a time of family…and good friends meeting once again.
It is a time of song and caroling…and silver sleigh bells jingling across the snow.
For some people, Christmas is a time of remembering…remembering other happy days filled with laughing voices…and other treasured times, now past.
But for everyone it is a time of magic…when troubles melt and once again the world is young.
It is a time, above all others, when peace may visit earth and find a dwelling place in every heart.
Christmas is a time of giving…
A time of hope…
A time of joy.
Christmas is a blessed time…of love.”
I think that sums it up better than anything I could come up with. My hope for you, my church family, is that during these last few days before Christmas and continuing on into the new year that all our lives be filled with the hope, the joy, the peace and the love that the birth of Christ brings to us.