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Sing for Joy! (December 31, 2017)

The first Sunday after Christmas is all about praise. The thing about praise is that it’s not something to talk about so much … it’s something to do.

Gloria in excelsis Deo! (Taizé)

Just look at old Simeon and old Anna in the Temple. They should be in Joseph Creek, but here they are in the Temple, holding this newborn baby, dancing as well as their old legs will let them, and singing their songs of praise.

“Now you can let me go, loving God,” sings Simeon. “Now my life is made whole and good. With my own eyes, I’ve seen your salvation, a light to reveal you to all people.”

Hear his croaky old voice cackling with glee as he sings that God has kept the promise. Finally. Finally. Now his life is full.

And look at old Anna over there. She was ancient, and she’d been waiting forever, just like old Simeon. And now … here was the child. Here was God’s love. Here was God’s very self.

And listen to Isaiah. “I’m going to sing for joy to God. My praise is going to explode from deep in my soul. Look at me … I’m wearing the robe of salvation; I’m putting on my top hat of joy and praise; I’m stepping into God’s love.”

They’re all singing for joy.

But there’s more. Psalm 148 urges all of creation to join in the song of praise—sun and moon, shining stars, fire and hail, snow and fog and wind, the Rockies and the Purcells, Mount Fisher, the Community Forest, cows and horses, deer and puppies—all of creation singing God’s praise.

Shall we join in? Gloria in excelsis Deo! (Taizé)

This is what happens when God hangs around, when God is doing God’s thing, when God moves into the neighbourhood. People can’t seem to contain themselves. They sing and dance. They open their mouths, and songs drop out. They join in the dance of life with a God who can’t get enough of us.

That’s what inspires people like Simeon and Anna and Isaiah and Mary and Joseph and Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu and Jean Vanier and you … and me.

Let’s join in — Gloria in excelsis Deo! (Taizé)

In this festival of Christmas, we celebrate. There’s lots of happiness in this season. But I think there’s something deeper than that … there’s joy.

Joy and happiness are similar in lots of ways. But joy, I think, is deeper.

Let’s go back to Simeon and Anna. They are both so old. Both of them have been waiting forever for God’s promise to be fulfilled. I can imagine how often they might have been tempted to give up, to think that God’s promise was nothing more than a figment of their imagination, nothing more than a pipe dream.

So how did they do it? What sustained them during this endless waiting? It’s so easy to lose heart when you wait that long.

That kind of waiting isn’t filled with a lot of happiness. I suspect that what sustained them was that they adopted an attitude of joy. They made a choice. They decided to hope. They determined to trust in God’s purposes. Joy trusts deeply that the promise of light is true. Joy trusts deeply that the darkness will not overcome it. Indeed, joy trusts deeply that the darkness simply cannot extinguish the light.

Happiness is a more momentary thing. I’m happy when something goes my way, or when I get a gift I was looking forward to receiving. Happiness springs up like that … but it withers just as quickly.

Joy, however, is a choice. Yes it is true that there’s lots of sadness in our world, lots of pain, lots of sorrow, lots of violence and prejudice. Though we proclaim the light has come, the world is still terribly dark.

We could choose to let that undermine us. We could choose just to give up. Or we can choose hope. We can choose joy. We can choose to trust God, and then work with God.

So when I’m going through a time of loss, joy holds me up. When I am feeling overwhelmed, joy cradles me. When God seems absent, when I can no longer discern God’s presence, joy carries me. In the midst of sorrow, joy brightens the horizon. When I lose my way, joy leads me home. When my soul is empty, joy nurtures me. When I am weary, joy mends my broken heart and my broken soul. When the darkness threatens to overcome me, joy lightens my way. When fear makes me weak, joy gives me courage to act.

The heart of this is simple … joy, like hope, empowers us. Joy strengthens us to act

We choose joy, even when happiness isn’t anywhere to be seen. And then, joy sings. Joy trusts. Joy bursts out in praise. Joy lives in the moment, relishes the moment. Joy waits for God to show up. And then, like old Simeon, joy holds salvation in our arms and helps us shine like beacons in the world.

So, along with all people, along with all creation … we sing. We have heard good news … of great joy.

Gloria in excelsis Deo! (Taizé)

And, when you think about it, that’s not such a bad way to enter a new year.

Thanks be to God.

Rev. Dr. Yme Woensdregt

December 31, 2017 (1st Sunday after Christmas)

Luke 2: 22–40

Isaiah 61:10–62:3

Galatians 4: 4–7