“The Joy of Blessings, the Blessings of Joy” December 11, 2022
“The Joy of Blessings, the Blessings of Joy”
When I first joined up onto the social media site called Twitter, I really didn’t know what to expect. before long I was able to read the learned opinions of senators and congressman and experts of every stripe. I might add that before long, I wasn’t spending much time at all on this thing they call Twitter. In fact, I had just about lost interest completely, but then I discovered a whole new wrinkle that has redeemed this monstrosity and for lack of a better term, I’ll call them “church tweets.” That’s right, because you see while all the congressmen and senators and presidents and talking heads are busy ranting and raving about what a mess we are in, there is another group working behind the scenes sharing their thoughts about faith, faith communities, and church life in general; and some of them are hilarious.
Take, for example, a site called ‘Bad Church Secretary/. This site was obviously created by someone who had lived the dream of being the secretary of a fairly large church, and for all I know, she still does, but her sense of humor is second to none. Between her concerns over gaining weight while eating a steady diet of church food to bulletin bloopers and dealing with pastors and youth leaders, there is truly something for everyone. One of my favorites reads, “I almost split the church over a simple typo. Who would have thought Vaccination Bible School would be so controversial.” This was followed by the brag, “We probably have more leafy Christmas decorations at our church than you do. That makes us Hollier than Thou.”
But my all time favorite go-to site when I want a good chuckle is called The Church Curmudgeon. Between this man’s love affair with coffee and his skill in the art of sarcasm, I find it hard to resist. His most recent nugget of wisdom tells us. “People don’t care about how much you grumble unless you grumble about how much they care.” And speaking of church food, how about, “Whoever serves me veggie bacon out of concern for my longevity is obviously not concerned about his own.” But enough, already.
We are gathered here today to celebrate the third Sunday of Advent – the Sunday of joy, so please forgive if I take a few liberties. I thought that “hollier than thou” was funny in a punny sort of way. But there are other sites that I would recommend to communities of faith for their ability to inform rather than make us laugh. One is a site dedicated to the writings of the Christian author C. S. Lewis and wouldn’t you know it but something popped up recently that really grabbed my imagination on the topic of joy. Mr. Lewis writes, “Human history is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy” think on that for a moment: “Human history is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy”
Now, when I first read this I found myself in slight disagreement. I mean, what about the joy that comes from a newborn child? What about the sense of elation from passing the test, winning the race, or even falling in love? What’s our God have to do with any of these? And that, perhaps, is Mr. Lewis’ point, because our God has everything to do with these things which bring us joy. This, to me, is one of the true blessings of living a life that is Christ centered. To put it another way, we are blessed with the joy of believing, and few things can make this joy shine brighter than this time we spend waiting and preparing for the coming of the Christ child.
Now, I’m not saying That we are expected to wander around all starry eyed singing kumbaya All day. We are Methodists after all.
But with that being said, I would like to share a moment of joy with you now and this all comes to mind Thanks to the kind of weird coincidence of today’s suggested reading from the 164th Psalm, Starting at verse 5. I’d like to read that to you now, if I may.
5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever;
7 who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free; 8 the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.9 The Lord watches over the sojourners;
he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
10 The Lord will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord
I love this Psalm. It is a simple song of praise Reminding us of the blessings that God rains down on us every day.
5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth but it is the opening verses of this Psalm that have become very near and dear to me.
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!
2 I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
A more common translation of this last line goes something like, “I will praise my maker while I have breath,” and that’s the weird coincidence that I would like to tell you about.
As most of you know, I have been through a bit of a rough patch for the last few months when it comes to my health. I’ve spent more time in hospitals and care facilities that I care to recall, but I thank God every day for the wonderful work that the great folks in our medical community provide. I have a lot of memories from this time: some. not so good. But there was one occasion That has helped me get through this thing, And even though I didn’t know it at the time. it was the 146th Psalm that brought me joy At one of the lowest points I’ve ever been.
When I was first admitted to the hospital. I was in rough shape. A stroke And a shattered femur made for a constant diet of pain and pain killers And there is not a whole lot of joy in that scenario. I was placed in a bed in a large room full of other people in hospital beds along with a constant flurry of nurses and doctors and therapists and who knows what else. But I remember laying there wondering if I was ever going to come out of this thing and yes, probably feeling a little sorry for myself. That’s when the words, “I will praise my maker while I have breath,” popped into my head. Before I knew it, I was saying the words out loud; over and over again: “I will praise my maker while I have breath.”
it was comforting in a way, but I stopped myself, thinking that people around me would figure I’m some sort of a crackpot./// but there it was: “I will praise my creator while I have breath. I will sing praises to my God while I have being”
You know, When folks have come to tell me that God has spoken to them, I am all ears. but at the same time, there’s a part of me that is skeptical. That is why I still, for the life of me, cannot fully understand How it was that at this Low point of despair, there was a voice that spoke to me saying, “Are you breathing?”
Well, yeah,“ I said.
“Then you know what to do, don’t you?” I heard.
“I suppose I do, I suppose I do,” I thought. “Praise be to God, I will sing praises to my creator while I have breath.” and I have to say, at that moment a huge burden was lifted. All the doubt and anxiety and worry and confusion just didn’t seem to matter anymore. Praise be to God, that the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down. Praise be to God that for the first time I felt that I might come out of this thing all right. I had confidence because God is with me – in spirit and in presence and in all the wonderful loving hearts that have supported and continue to support me through this ordeal. praise be to God, /// I have found joy where I thought joy could never be found.// Praise be to God that I was able to find the blessing of joy.
And Speaking of joy. the third Sunday of advent would not be complete without studying upon Mary’s prayer, the Magnificat. In a sense, we might consider this prayer an expression of the joy of blessing.
The first few lines say it all when Mary speaks, ““My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.” he has looked upon the humble estate of his servant.
here is a young girl engaged to an older man who has suddenly turned up pregnant. Her reputation has been ruined and I’m sure that tongues have been wagging nonstop since the news came out. Yet here she is, expressing This purest form of joy and gratitude for the blessing she has received. I can’t help but find the same sense of joy in the 146th Psalm. There is a confidence, there is an assurance, That we of humble estate have worth beyond measure in the eyes of our God. And isn’t that the blessing of the Christ child? That God so loved the world that he came to us in the flesh to show us, for real, what love Is all about. Blessings of joy, the joy of blessings. Come, Lord Jesus, come so that in this season and in the days to come we might, as the church, be a testament to the world that blessed is he whose help is in the God of Jacob and whose hope is in the Lord who made heaven and earth. I am forever mindful that these blessings of help and of hope are the constant source of our joy, both as the church and as people of the Kingdom of God. And so just as Mr. Lewis has told us: “Human history is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy”, maybe we can do something about that. Maybe we can come to the place where our joy of blessing becomes contagious. – what the heck, maybe we can change history. Because, after all we know from the 30th Psalm “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, But joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5 Amen and Shalom