Isaiah 9:6-7 and Luke 2:1-7
Anyone who knows me well knows that I love music. I became a radio DJ in college so that I would have an excuse to listen to music for 2 hours straight. There’s no one kind of music that I particularly like. I’ll admit that I’m not all that into metal, but there’s some that’s OK. Instead of style or type, what defines all of my favorite songs is story. I love music that tells me a story whether it’s Ravel’s Bolero that sounds like a prince returning to the castle after a long quest or a Broadway show tune that tells of a love story between two star-crossed characters.
We’ve been following the lectionary Bible texts for each Sunday, but today we are going off lectionary. The main reason that I have for not following the lectionary today is that the stories of our faith are important. They are worth repeating over and over. It does not matter how many times I hear them, each time I am struck by something new in the passage. The texts that Linda and I read are passages that we have heard repeatedly in our Christian lives. What are they saying to us this year?
Sorrow shared is halved, Joy shared is doubled
The usual theme of advent is one of repentance, an encouragement for individuals to prepare themselves – to purify and strive towards being better – for Christ. Repentance can be described as right living – turning our backs on anything that is against what God wants us to do. We’ve taken a journey through difficult topics like suffering in Job and thoughts on the end times in Revelations to hearing the strong, earthy refrains of John the Baptist.
The third Sunday in Advent is traditionally called Gaudete Sunday. We find the word gaudete at the beginning of the passage I shared with the kids from Phillipians 4:4-8, “Rejoice!” It is traditional to suspend the penitential mood of Advent in order look forward to the birth of Christ and rejoice!
This play back and forth between repentance and joy reminds me of a truth that I’ve experienced many times in my friendships. “Sorrow shared is halved, and joy shared is doubled.” When the church tackles difficult topics like suffering or salvation, it often finds taking that journey as a community is binding. It brings people together. It requires honesty and within that honesty is a certain amount of vulnerability – it takes courage to ask others for help! – but many who entrust others with what is troubling them suddenly find a weight lifted from their soldiers. They no longer have to carry their burden alone, and it is reassuring and uplifting to be able to trust others and their care for you.
In the same way, joy that is shared is doubled. Good news just seems to burst forth from people as if they cannot bear to keep something so good just for themselves. Joy seems to spill out of people, bubbling up from the spring of the heart.
How many of us like surprises?
Sometimes, however, joy surprises us. How many of us like surprises? My guess is that it’s about 50/50. Some people love being surprised and others hate it. It depends on two things really: 1) what we are being surprised by (something good /bad?) and 2) our anxiety/comfort levels when truly surprised. One thing I am continually at is that no matter how long we have believed in Christ, we are always thirsty for the living water offered to us in Christ. We yearn to be close to God.
The truth is we constantly thirst for the living water, for God.
<<”Thirsty” by Joann Olson. A Story from All is Calm, All is Bright, pg 173>>
Come to God, this Christmas season. Bring your hunger; bring your thirst. Ask the Lord to fill your life. Expect God to answer that request, but expect to be surprised by the form of the response.
The text says “Rejoice in the Lord always,” and I believe that means sometimes our joy surprises us. Sometimes our joy is in the smallest thing, which you didn’t realize was that important. There are sometimes hidden joys that we look past. Perhaps it is in being forced to take the time to take care of a loved one when they are sick. Maybe it is in the short bursts of time that are yours and yours alone.
Open your heart to your yearnings for joy, and lay all of your hopes out for the Lord.
May the Lord take all of those yearnings and make you joyful.