Spiritual Living in a Chaotic World

Gifts of Advent, Joy

December 14, 2020 Pastor Dave Tucker Season 5 Episode 3
Spiritual Living in a Chaotic World
Gifts of Advent, Joy
Spiritual Living in a Chaotic World
Gifts of Advent, Joy
Dec 14, 2020 Season 5 Episode 3
Pastor Dave Tucker

Joy is an interesting gift you know. It’s actually contagious. Joy is best appreciated when it is given away.

Based on Luke 1:46b-55

Show Notes Transcript

Joy is an interesting gift you know. It’s actually contagious. Joy is best appreciated when it is given away.

Based on Luke 1:46b-55

Luke 1:46b-55

         I have a confession to make… I prepared this sermon yesterday. This has been a challenging time for me with my grandfather passing away, and presiding over his funeral Thursday. I’ll admit, it’s difficult to find joy in times in times of grief. Don’t get me wrong, My grandfather was 97 years old and was tired and ready to go and he is in a better place… We just weren’t ready to say goodbye. How does one find joy in a world where there is suffering from Covid-19, and social unrest, and political bickering and uncertainty? Today we are going to be exploring that question as we look at the Gift of joy. First, Let us invite the Holy Spirit into this place. 

         Loving God, the holidays are difficult for many people. The events of 2020 seem to add a whole new layer to this difficulty. It is a difficult takes to find joy in the midst of suffering. We invite the Holy Spirit to guide us as we open your word this morning. For it is in the name of Jesus we pray, AMEN!

         Our Scripture reading is found in Luke 1:46b-55: These are the words of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. I am reading from the NRSV:         “My soul magnifies the Lord,

47                 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

48        for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.

                  Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

49        for the Mighty One has done great things for me,

                  and holy is his name.

50        His mercy is for those who fear him

                  from generation to generation.

51        He has shown strength with his arm;

                  he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.

52        He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,

                  and lifted up the lowly;

53        he has filled the hungry with good things,

                  and sent the rich away empty.

54        He has helped his servant Israel,

                  in remembrance of his mercy,

55        according to the promise he made to our ancestors,

                  to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

         As I studied the context of this psalm of Mary, there were a couple of things that helped me gain a better understanding of what Mary is saying here and how it relates to the gift of joy. First, Mary received this startling and troubling news that she was pregnant just before she went to see her cousin Elizabeth. Although the angel appeared to her and told her that this would be accomplished by the Holy Spirit. And that she would give birth to Emmanuel, God with us, she had a lot of questions. There was no way around the fact that she WAS pregnant and people would notice… and start talking. Women were stoned for such things you know. Then there was the question, how is she going to explain this to Joseph, who she was engaged to be married to. I am certain she felt an overwhelming need to clear her head and confide in perhaps the only person who would understand. So, Mary hastily packed her things and. Just. Left. No explanation was given, or even if she would even be coming back! 

         The next thing in this story that I think bears a deeper look is what happened the moment Mary arrived at Elizabeth’s home. Elizabeth was also pregnant and she shouldn’t have been either. Elizabeth and Zachariah had tried all their lives to have a child. Now, here she was… beyond her childbearing years… pregnant. This baby too was gift from God. Her son’s mission was to bring the house of Israel back to God… to prepare the way… for the Way! Scripture tells us that as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s voice, the child in Elizabeth’s womb “leaped for joy!” Perhaps this is what Mary needed to hear, perhaps this was confirmation that what the angel had said was truth. Perhaps, this little, not born yet baby leaping for joy, was what made Mary feel as if everything was going to be okay. 

         Joy is an interesting gift you know. It’s actually contagious. Joy is best appreciated when it is given away. To be honest, perhaps that is where we fall short of achieving joy. We look for joy in the wrong places and in the wrong ways. We think, “When this pandemic is over, I will experience joy.” Or, “When my party gets into the White House, I will experience joy.” Or, “If I could get this job and make lots of money, I will experience joy.” [pause] As a marriage coach of many years, I am saddened to hear the words, “he doesn’t make me happy anymore… she doesn’t make me happy anymore.” Friends, happiness does not come from a perfect, trouble free life. We have to find ways to generate joy in spite of the troubles in our lives. And the ONLY person responsible for my happiness is ME!

         Jesus says in Matthew 6:33, “Seek first financial gain and all these things will be added to you.” No wait… “Seek first that marital happiness and all these things will be added to you.” “Seek first that fancy car for Christmas and all these things will be added to you!”

NO! “Seek first the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness and all these things will be added unto you!” The kingdom of God is upside down… countercultural… perhaps even counterintuitive. We receive the gift of joy by focusing on Jesus no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in. 

         I want to brag on this church for a moment. Because today, I really feel like I am preaching to the choir. My grandfather died of Covid related pneumonia. I wanted to see him one last time before he passed. I knew that I would have to isolate from my church family as a result. I am very grateful for Rev. Justin Westfall agreeing to fill this pulpit before I left for the hospital. Didn’t he do a wonderful job! I received so many messages and emails and cards from members of this church, it was humbling. This may sound strange, but in my sadness, you brought joy to my heart through those messages. Again, we receive joy, by giving joy!

         Friday, we delivered Christmas to a single mother who lost everything she had in a move. She moved to this area to help one of her adult children take care of their kids. The moving company she hired stole everything she and her children owned. She reached out to this church and you all came through for her! There was so much furniture and food and Christmas gifts delivered that she was completely overwhelmed. She did want to make sure that you knew how deeply she appreciated your generosity. This church gets it! We receive joy by giving joy. 

         We are doing something with our mission and outreach offering this year. We have created a special offering called Birthday Gift to Jesus. After all, this is not our birthday, but Jesus’. From this special offering your session will be deciding where the money you give will have the best impact. We will be generating a report early next year so you can see exactly the joy that your gift brought to people in need. Lucresia and I have made a commitment to match what we spend on Christmas gifts, and give that same amount to the Birthday Gift to Jesus. By the generosity I have already seen from this church, I know that a lot of people will be served by this offering. This church understands that we receive joy by giving joy. 

         Can I say, it is an honor and a JOY to serve as your pastor? In spite of what 2020 dished out this year, St. Timothy Cumberland Presbyterian Church has still found ways to find joy by seeking first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness. You have found ways to continue to bless others. AMEN!