How To Acquire Joy

Sermon – 12-13-20 – Advent III – Cycle B
Scriptures: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; Psalm 126; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28, and Luke 1
Sermon Title: “How to Acquire Joy”

Did you ever notice that some people are born with joy in their genes while some of us seem to be joyless? Why is this?

It would be helpful if there were a Vitamin J for Joy. Maybe anti-depressant medicine would increase our joy quotient or maybe not. That may be a dangerous way to acquire joy!

This characteristic may be inherited or it may depend largely on the people around us. Marv, short for Marvin, was always a serious child. He could understand and do tasks and reading and math. He went through the right motions such as being polite, hugging when it was expected, saying “I love you” to family members. He was even-tempered.

When Marv started in Kindergarten, his teacher, Miss Irene, was curious. Marv was not sad but he rarely smiled. She wondered if Marv was born this way. What were the other members of the family like? Miss Irene tried to bring a smile to Marv’s face without making it an issue. No success. Finally, it was time for the first parent-teacher conference. Miss Irene made a note about the lack of a smile on the written report. She wondered if the parents would be upset.

When the designated hour came, here were two parents who had Marv’s face for their faces. They were polite and alert but no smile, just very even-keeled. How had these two adults found each other? It could have been like a strong magnet that brought them together – so much alike! But Miss Irene still did not know whether Marv’s personality was from genes or from growing up with these two people.

Miss Irene made it her goal to bring a smile to that face. She tried various snacks. She watched while they did art class, recess, reading funny stories. Since this was a public school she could not bring Jesus into the picture. However, no one could stop Miss Irene from praying to herself. Finally along about April, one of the classmates was injured in a car accident and could not come to school for a good month. One day the classroom door opened and guess who? The missing student appeared with crutches.

Even though everyone’s eyes were on the classmate in the doorway, Miss Irene had the presence of mind to sneak a look at Marv’s face. There it was, that long awaited smile! Miss Irene thanked God while she breathed in the look of that face! There it was, joy in the smile, in the eyes, and in Marv’s whole body. It was not cake or candy or a neat toy. It was the return of a missing classmate – can we dare call the classmate a friend?

So joy was hiding inside this little boy’s mind and soul all this time. It just never had a good enough reason to show itself on the outside.

How about you? How about me? Do we share joy on the outside? If not, is there any joy inside that is afraid to show itself? Or maybe, our little seed of joy is content to stay a small seed inside. How important is it to show joy? For myself, I am afraid to be too happy about anything because coming off the mountain into the valley, can be very painful. So I try to stay on an even keel – not too much happiness, not too much pain. Are you like that, too, or do you actually dance when something good is happening?

The times when I am close to actually dancing are when God makes things work if I only ask and listen and wait. Situations falling into place well are like gift-wrapped presents. I do remember to thank and praise God and give the credit to God. I am nothing without God’s help and presence.

Paul exhorts us to REJOICE! “Rejoice and be glad,” he writes. Can we be righteous, a.k.a. good, and express joy at the same time. With Paul, rejoicing does not stand alone. He adds praying without ceasing, giving thanks in all circumstances for this is what God wants us to do. It is a balanced recipe for a personality which results in contentment. Contentment is good for our physical bodies and our spiritual being.

However, if our personality is too content for too long, we may lose some of the joyousness. We need to check if we inherited joyless genes or if we are around joyless people. We can overcome either one of these reasons.

Did you absorb all the joyousness in our scriptures today along with Mary’s joyousness when she was expecting to give birth to the Son of God? But when we got to the gospel we found a John the Baptist who does not radiate joy in any degree. John 1 says that this John the Baptist is not the light, he only is sent to tell about the coming light – Jesus. John the Baptist’s parents were quite old when he was born and they were outwardly joyous. Maybe they did not manage to share that joy with the baby John. Or maybe because they were old, their joyousness had all been used and disappeared. Or maybe God planned John the Baptist to be joyless. We know that being a prophet can kill joy easily. What does this circumstance have to say to us?

Madison sang, “Come and Go with Me, to My Father’s House Where There’s Joy, Joy, Joy! How does joy come into the church? Does it float down the chimney, or through the cracks? Or does joy come into the building with us? Do we need to bring the joy? How are we going to bring joy if we don’t have joy? Gena sang, “Light One Candle for Joy.” That is where the joy is in our gospel. We shall not stay in the darkness either physically or mentally. Turn on the lights in the house. Do not sit in darkness! Darkness brings gloomy feelings. How much electricity does it take to surround ourselves in light? It is cheaper than a visit to a psychologist. It is cheaper than anti-depressant drugs.

If we missed our chance to instill joy in our children, we might have a chance to influence our grandchildren. How would you rate the joy in your grandchildren?

How would I rate our congregation in a JOY index? On Zoom, I rate us as A+. We are so happy to see and hear each other. Now, we could ask God how to bring increased JOY to the streets and sidewalks of Womelsdorf or do you think there is already joy in the neighborhood? Amen

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