(You may watch video of this sermon here.)
How have you known Joy in the midst of hardship or challenging times? How was the Divine at work?
If we we’re talking about the joy that has something to do with the birth of Jesus to Mary in Roman occupied Galilee, we’re talking about the dawning of a fierce kind of joy, a force of life and vitality, a force of love and creativity that rises in defiance of all would seek to rob us of hope, rob us of love.
The kind of Joy we’re talking about, does not mean not feeling sadness. Christian Joy takes in the whole scope of birth and life and transfiguration and crucifixion and resurrection. This is a joy that is much more deeply feeling and deeply fulfilling than simply a sunny attitude.
Here are some words about this kind of joy, from an effort called “Enfleshed,” which is a Queer Christian liturgy cooperative effort:
“The Joy of God-With-Us does not come as naïve optimism, or surface level feel-good-ness. Joy cannot be imposed from on high. Joy cannot be commanded. The Joy of God-With-Us is mingled with grief, exists side by side with mourning, knows that pain and death are all too real, but do not have the final word. This joy tends tenderly to beauty, and softness, and the gladness that comes from paying attention to what matters. The Joy of God-With-Us is collective, liberating us from deadly despair. Joy is gestating in darkness; it comes unexpectedly. Joy invites our expectation, and demands our participation. Prepare the way, for joy with sorrow. May Joy be birthed among, within, and through us, this Advent. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel…”
When I posed the question about joy this week through our church email list and social media, what you all had to share speaks to this kind of deeper kind of joy that does not at all deny the reality of sorrow:
I received so many “divine messages” after my husband’s death that I couldn’t deny the existence of “other realms” – finally knowing and believing it wholeheartedly gave me a sense of connection to the divine. This gave me, and still gives me, joy.
Covid has infected most of my entire family. Only a few have escaped it. How do you get Joy out of it? How is the Divine at work? We still have one family member in the hospital with covid pneumonia, all others are on the mend. It has brought our family much closer together taking nothing for granted. We now tell each other we love them, which was never done in the family before. We talk every day, which we didn’t do before. Giving into God’s will and not worrying because He is in control. It is what shall be.
Just the right words said in the divine moment they were most needed
Someone else shared: “I have struggled with self-worth since I was about seven. When my kidneys failed and person after person stepped up to be tested as a kidney donor, I eventually had to realize that maybe I am a decent person if all these other decent people were willing to do a very hard, painful, and frustrating thing in order to help me.
I mean, I know self-love is supposed to come from within yada yada, and I struggled and cried because I thought I was so awful and they were deluding themselves, but the entire process was really life-changing in this way.
Joy comes in so many forms. My dog brings joy to me and to all his human friends. He was a foundling and I do believe he was sent here to me with a very distinct mission. When he arrived here he immediately took up his position as in-house therapy dog. He will often spend hours cuddling with one after another ancient friend – he’s all about giving love with no reservations at all. One lady who has dementia and almost never speaks loves to just sit and hold him tight, and talk to him very quietly; he’s good with it. If someone wants to play, he’s more than willing and he’s always gentle. He produces smiles and truly makes people feel better. He wasn’t trained for this — he is a giver of joy; and he Godful.
Two things stand out from this week: I found a letter from my grandpa from 24 years ago to the day he wrote it, while cleaning out old things. It reminded me that God still uses our ancestors to lift us when we need them. Secondly, receiving the care package from the church was an incredible gift that brought us much joy during the Christmas season.
I look at my children. They are thriving. I see the light in their eyes, and that makes me so joyful and so thankful.
This is the kind of joy that we can open ourselves to this Christmas, which could be a challenging Christmas to many because of the pandemic.
I’ll close with the lyrics of a song that someone shared: “There’s Still My Joy” by the Indigo Girls”
I brought my tree down to the shore The garland and the silver star To find my peace and grieve no more To heal this place inside my heart
On every branch I laid some bread And hungry birds filled up the sky They rang like bells around my head They sang my spirit back to life
One tiny child can change the world One shining light can show the way Through all my tears, for what I’ve lost There’s still my joy There’s still my joy for Christmas day
The snow comes down on empty sand There’s tinsel moonlight on the waves My soul was lost but here I am So this must be amazing grace
One tiny child can change the world One shining light can show the way Beyond these tears for what I’ve lost There’s still my joy There’s still my joy for Christmas day There’s still my joy for Christmas day
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