As of this morning, we have two Advent Sunday services now done and dusted.
With only two more services to go, the time of preparation and waiting will be over.
In just a week or so from now, our celebration of the incarnation of God in the birth of Jesus at Christmas can truly begin!
This particular Advent season, I have very much enjoyed being a part of your church family traditions.
These experiences have been ones infused with positive energy, we might even say ‘joy’.
That said, they also carry with them the poignancy of sad awareness that life is difficult.
Life is difficult for many both within and beyond the walls of this building.
Hats off to each and every one of you who have opened, not only the doors of your building, but also the doors of your hearts to one another.
To say that my own life has been much enriched by taking part in the Alexis Park School Lunch and your Turkey Supper would be an understatement.
The other tradition here at Trinity that I had a small role in this year was the Blue Christmas service. It happened right here in this sanctuary yesterday afternoon.
To be with you as you have been about the very intentional ministries of gathering and breaking bread across the generations in meaningful and effective ways has been a stellar experience.
Bravo and well done, good and faithful servants of Christ!
In planning and preparing for our worship services during the season of Advent this year with the ad hoc worship team, we have been mindful of how labour- intensive aspects of these annual events. With that in mind, we have been very intentional about providing a time of sacred pause in worship from some of the heavy lifting involved not only in hosting but also in attending these events.
We have also strived to provide you with some down time from the usual merry-making that permeates the secular festive season.
Thanks to many of you for your positive feedback in this regard.
We have this ministry and we are not discouraged.
For the last couple of weeks, our texts from Luke’s gospel, apocalyptic in tone and strident in messages may or may not have offered you the sacred pause you may have been seeking.
They texts may or may not have felt discouraging.
This morning, by contrast, our prayers, our hymns, and our texts from scripture have been chosen in keeping with the theme of rejoicing!
With only one more Sunday to go in the season of Advent, it’s time to start practicing being joyful.
This morning we deliberately shift away from all the talk of repentance and the forgiveness of sin that permeates Luke’s gospel.
Instead, we fast forward to and lean into the vision of the apostle Paul as he give thanks to the people at Philippi, one of the early Christian far – flung outposts in Macedonia.
Of course, if you know anything about the apostle, Paul, you will know that he has already done the heavy lifting of his own hard work of conversion through his own experience of repentance and forgiveness of sin.
Paul has already found joy in his relationship with Jesus, the Christ.
And because of that, Paul has also found himself regularly incarcerated.
This morning we are plunked down in the middle of a small portion of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, written from prison.
In these five verses taken from the fourth chapter of the letter, Paul also encourages the Philippians to take heart, to be positive, to rejoice even in the midst of their own stark and precarious circumstances.
Similar to Paul’s encouragement to the early church at Rome, found at Romans 12 , verse 2, Paul tells his supporters at Philippi to not worry about anything.
Instead, he encourages them to focus on what is true, honourable, just, pure, and pleasing, and, of course, to rejoice and to pray without ceasing.
The unbridled joy evident in Paul’s letter reminds me of numerous sightings of joy I have been privy to these last few weeks here at Trinity.
It is true that I was witness to numerous experiences of unbridled joy in our relationship building and in our interactions with children attending the Alexis Park lunch and then at the Church family turkey dinner last Sunday.
I was also reminded yesterday at the Blue Christmas service that where sadness is acknowledged in the safe context of Christian community, there also joy bubbles up and is shared.
Like the people the prophet, Zephaniah addressed in our first text from scripture this morning, we, in this particular church and in the church in general, have been languishing in a lengthy period of exile.
Here, this morning, we’re invited to trust in God’s promise of renewal and restoration that soon and very soon, God will bring us home.
Choosing to rest in the sure knowledge that we are though we are called to work together as if everything depends on us but to pray as though everything depends on God, we can do this.
We can get to where God is calling us to go!
For all of this and more, I say thanks be to God and blessed be.Amen and amen.
Rev. Elizabeth Bowyer reserves all rights © 2018.
You are welcome to use, copy, edit or reproduce this sermon with copyright attached. Publication is prohibited.
The impetus for this sermon took some of its shape from the following resources:
- Reasons to rejoice: Christian joy in a secularized world-“Turn to God-Rejoice in Hope”, Unfolding the Eighth Assembly Theme, The Ecumenical Review, April, 1998
- Third Sunday of Advent-16 December 2018 www.churchofscotland.org.uk
- Praiseworthy Living, Seasons of the Spirit, Pentecost 2, 2008