December 16, 2020
Dreams of Joy
INVOCATION and READINGS
O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel!
Psalm 126 (A Song of Ascents)
1When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream.
2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them.
3 The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.
4 Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the south.
5 They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.
6 He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.
John 15: 5-8 (The Vine and the Branches)
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Thank you God for your most holy word.
Joy can be a complicated feeling, especially this time of year. There is an expectation of happiness amongst all the festivities of the season. The reality is, however, that, for many, feelings of loneliness, depression, sadness, and anxiety are often heightened during the holidays.
Certainly, this year brings with it even more of these feelings.
I want to acknowledge all the mixed emotions each of us are feeling, and remind ourselves that sadness and joy are not mutually exclusive – they can indeed walk hand in hand.
More than a fleeting feeling of earthly happiness, true spiritual joy goes much deeper. United Church of God Pastor Don Hooser describes it as a strong foundation that supports a full range of human emotions; and this foundation is rooted in “gratitude, contentment, optimism, a sense of freedom and other positive attitudes.” Spiritual joy, a gift of the Holy Spirit, looks “outward and upward” as opposed to “inward.”
Simply put, as we love and care for others – guided by faith, hope, and the promise of salvation – we build that foundation of true joy that can help bring us through tough times. My dream is that each one of us may find such joy in these moments, knowing that our communications and connections, however “virtual,” are more precious than ever – I know they are to me!
As I was working through which Advent/Christmas hymn would best demonstrate the juxtaposition of sorrow and joy, a Calvary member sent me this presentation of “It Is Well With My Soul.” (Thanks Fred!) Not only is it a poignant account of spiritual joy arising from adversity, it indeed has a Christmas connection! This video beautifully describes the history and profound testimony of the hymn that was penned in 1873 by Horatio Gates Spafford (1828-1888) with its tune written in 1873 by Philip Paul Bliss (1838-1876).
So please take time to view this powerful and inspiring story:
O Promised One, we give thanks for your never-ending love, and for your promise of deliverance from pain and sorrow. We remember that you walked the ultimate road of pain and grief for our salvation. May this anxious Advent season offer us an opportunity to deepen our sense of joy in you. May our inner reflections become outward reflections of your love by sowing seeds of your joy in the lives of others.
Lord of compassion, let us not feel shame or weakness in seeking help whenever we feel overwhelmed, or find ourselves suffering in silence. Help us also to be sensitive to the needs of those around us as we acknowledge one another’s pain and grief. Though the paths we walk are all different, we are comforted in knowing we also walk together as your children.
God of grace, as we await your coming, both as infant King and for your triumphant return, may we not sit idly by, but actively work our way back to you. We humbly pray, Amen.
Offered by Joche Wilmot, Director of Music Ministries