From the Pastor January/February 2017

I have been thinking quite a bit about joy lately. I preached on it the third Sunday in Advent (traditionally Gaudete Sunday, a day to remember joy in the midst of the darkness of Advent), and by the time you read this, I will have preached on it during the Christmas Eve service. I plan to preach on joy often in the year ahead.

 

As I said during Advent, I think joy is one of the most underrated virtues. And I do think it is a virtue, right up there with love and faith. As Christians, we are called to rejoice. We are called to rejoice because God is with us. We are called to rejoice and not be afraid. We are called to rejoice even when we are scared and broken and doubtful.

 

Now: we are not called to rejoice because we are broken, or because others are broken. Human wounds do not cause God to rejoice. But God loves us, is faithful to us, rejoices in us, and stays with us even though we are broken. Even though we break others. God stays with us, and because God stays with us, we have the opportunity to heal, and to forgive, and to ask for forgiveness, and to be forgiven, and to be healed. Since God is always with us, we can always rejoice. Even through pain and tears, we can rejoice.

 

Rejoicing is much deeper than feeling happy. We can rejoice even when we don’t feel happy. In fact, those are great times to rejoice. When we rejoice, we give voice to the joy that is at the core of who we are. There is a spark of the divine in each of us. When we rejoice, that spark burns brighter. We can, in the depths of our despair, lose sight of that spark. We look around and all we see is darkness and all we feel is cold. If, in those terrible moments, we can rejoice, even with just a whisper, even if our rejoicing sounds more like a cry, we can begin to crawl toward the spark. Rejoicing helps us find the light.

 

Understand: this is not easy. This is not namby-pamby, feel-good stuff. Just as it takes courage to love in the midst of hate (more, much more courage than it takes to hate), it takes courage to rejoice in the midst of despair. The good news is, the more we rejoice, the closer we get to that spark within us. The closer we get to that spark, the more courage we will find. The more courage we find, the louder we will rejoice.

 

A virtuous, joyful circle.

 

Happy New Year! Rejoice! God is with us!

 

Peace,

Matt

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