December 19, 2017
“Sowing Seeds of Joy” ~ Sermon for December 17, 2017
Our New Testament reading this morning is John’s account of the story of John the Baptist.
John’s gospel always focuses on the divinity of Jesus Christ and this is how he introduces Jesus’ ministry to us.
Hear now a reading from the gospel of John 1: 1-8, 19-28.
Here ends the reading of God’s holy word. May God add to our hearing and understanding God’s blessing. Amen.
Please pray with me.
Merciful God of peace, your word, spoken by the prophets, restores your people’s life and hope.
Fill our hearts with the joy of your saving grace, that we may hold fast to your great goodness and in our lives proclaim your justice in all the world.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
What do you do when you feel joyful?
Do you sing?
Do you dance?
Do you smile?
On this third Sunday of Advent we lit the candle of joy.
We move into this pre-Christmas week with joy in our hearts, knowing what is to come.
We know that the future we have waited for, hoped for, prayed for, is about to come to pass.
It is in this week before Christmas that we rest into the understanding that God has heard our prayers and Emmanuel will indeed come.
The psalmist sang out with joy when their fortunes were returned.
After years in exile, suffering at the hands of their enemies, their mouths were filled with laughter and their tongues with shouts of joy!
Isaiah shared his own joy in recognizing that God’s promises had come true and manifested themselves in the prophet.
“The spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners.”
We will hear these same words spoken by Jesus in his first public act of ministry in his hometown synagogue.
All of this leads us to John’s beautiful gospel words: “The light came into the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.”
These are the words that I have used to comfort you every time tragedy has befallen us.
These are the words of hope, expressed to a people in despair.
These are the promises that God has made to us – God’s people, since the beginning of time.
Scripture is the account of all of the times God has kept those promises.
These are all cause for joyous celebration!
This is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our world can be transformed.
All things can be made new.
This is the promise of Christmas.
Holding on to this vision of hope, peace, joy and love is what religion is all about.
It is the reason we gather – to share our own hopes and joys with others, as well as our concerns.
This is not the easiest time of year for many people, but for every person this time of year provides an opportunity.
We each have the chance to do something for someone else that will bring joy to their lives.
I hope that you had a chance to look at the Kindness Advent Calendar that was included in the newsletter earlier this month.
Produced by a group called ‘Action for Happiness’ the calendar provided suggestions for doing something nice everyday in Advent.
Suggestions ranged from smiling at people to donating money to a good cause or cooking a meal for a neighbor.
These small acts of kindness do not need to be limited to Advent.
Intentional acts can be cultivated into habits that can be cultivated into a way of life.
One of my favorite scenes from the Christmas shows is the end of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas when the Grinch’s small cold heart grows bigger and bigger in response to the love of the people of Whoville.
Kindness breeds kindness just as anger begets anger.
How we treat other people has an impact on how they treat us, as well as how we feel about ourselves.
Our cultural discourse has deteriorated into childish name calling rather than deep listening or serious debate.
It will only be a matter of time until this particular behavior becomes commonplace, accepted as a new norm.
I believe our call as followers of Jesus Christ is to lead by example.
There has been a lot of talk in the news about who Christians are and what we believe.
We must reclaim that conversation and be the voice crying out in the wilderness: Make way for the Lord!
We are the ones who must cultivate a vision for the future.
A vision of peace, respect, and community.
Henri Nouwen raised this question:
“Are the great visions of the ultimate peace among all people and the ultimate harmony of all creation just utopian fairy tales?
No, they are not! They correspond to the deepest longings of the human heart and point to the truth waiting to be revealed beyond all lies and deceptions.
These visions nurture our souls and strengthen our hearts.
They offer us hope when we are close to despair, courage when we are tempted to give up on life, and trust when suspicion seems the more logical attitude.
Without these visions our deepest aspirations, which give us the energy to overcome great obstacles and painful setbacks, will be dulled and our lives will become flat, boring, and finally destructive.
Our visions enable us to live the full life.”
My friends, we are the light that comes into the darkness and the meaning of our lives depends on what we do to dispel that darkness.
In this last week before Christmas I urge you to open your heart to your neighbor.
Look for ways to be kind.
Sow seeds of joy, wherever you go and may you be blessed.
I want to close with:
A Christmas Blessing by Joyce Rupp
- May there be harmony in all relationships. May sharp words, envious thoughts, and hostile feelings be dissolved.
- May you give and receive love generously. May this love echo in your heart like the joy of church bells on a clear December day.
- May each person who comes into your life be greeted as another Christ. May the honor given the Babe of Bethlehem be that which you extend to every guest who enters your presence.
- May the hope of this sacred season settle in your soul. May it be a foundation of courage for you when times of distress occupy your inner land.
- May the wonder and awe that fills the eyes of children be awakened within you. May it lead you to renewed awareness and appreciation of whatever you too easily take
- May the bonds of love for one another be strengthened as you gather with your family and friends around the table of festivity and nourishment.
- May you daily open the gift of your life and be grateful for the hidden treasures it contains.
- May the coming year be one of good health for you. May you have energy and vitality. May you care well for your body, mind, and spirit.
- May you keep your eye on the Star within you and trust this Luminescent Presence to guide and direct you each day.
- May you go often to Bethlehem of your heart and visit the One who offers you peace. May you bring this peace into our world.
Let us pray.
Gracious, loving God of hope, peace and joy, be with us this day as we prepare our hearts for your great gift.
Let your love shine through us to all the world.
Let us be the ones who sow seeds of hope, peace and joy in the hearts of others.
Help us, we pray, to lead lives worthy to the calling which you have called us.
Grant us the grace to bear witness to your love in the world.
Hear now our prayers for those whom we love.
For those who are sick, we pray for healing.
For those who mourn, we pray for comfort.
For our neighbors and friends who feel alone at this time of year, let our love break through their sadness and bring joy.
Let our light shine brightly dispelling the darkness of a world beset with rancor.
O God, we long for the Prince of Peace to rule our lives.
Hear us now as we turn to you in the sacred silence of this meetinghouse.