Broad Brook Congregational Church
Third Sunday of Advent
December 14, 2014
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
John 1:6-8, 19-28
From Tears to Rejoicing
Today we lit the Advent candle of “joy.” Today is also the second anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shootings. There have been 88 school shootings (although this figure may be disputed) in the U.S. since Sandy Hook. There have been tens of thousands of victims of gun violence in the U. S. since Sandy Hook.
Today we lit the Advent candle of “joy.” The Palestinians and the Israelis continue to perpetuate cultural and religious differences and hatred toward each other and rely on violence rather than honest and compassionate dialogue.
Today we lit the Advent candle of “joy.” Today children here in the U. S. will die from hunger. Millions of people will sleep in cardboard boxes, in abandoned buildings, and in the open and suffer freezing temperatures.
Today we lit the Advent candle of “joy.” Today there is news that the gap between the haves and have-nots in the U.S. has widened even further. The relations between the rich and poor have deteriorated. Greed is prevalent.
Today we lit the Advent candle of “joy.” This week I visited a dear friend who is now under hospice care for terminal cancer. She has a deep and abiding faith that sustains her. She still finds joy in every day despite the tortures of her disease.
Today we lit the Advent candle of “joy.” Yesterday I married a couple that have found joy in the love they experience for one another. It isn’t happiness they feel; it is a deep-seated joy.
Today we lit the Advent candle of “joy.” Last night I experienced pure joy as I listened to the Shoreline Bell Ringers, a group of dedicated musicians who truly enjoy what they do. It is evident in the joyful sound that peels out from their hand bells.
Today we lit the Advent candle of “joy.” Today we gather to worship a loving God who has promised to never abandon us.
Yes there are terrible things happening in our world. There are injustices that need to be transformed. There are places where peace must enter. There are systems that are broken and need reform.
There is also joy. Joy runs deeper than happiness because joy can abide even in the midst of hardship and grief. From our darkest moments flow our tears. When our voices have cried out from those dark places—our fears and sorrows and our very core aches…what lies under our lost hopes is the joy of realizing that we have been heard when we thought we were all alone.
Our scriptures this morning hold the promise that GOD HEARS US! God sent the Anointed One “ to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners…”… those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy. Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy.” From tears to rejoicing.
Sometimes it is difficult to see God at work in our lives. But we can trust that God hears our heart’s sorrows. God is with us. We are not alone. The more we live in an attitude of gratitude and trust, the more we will experience the joy that is at the heart of God’s promises. There are no guarantees that everyday will be free of difficulty or be happy, but God has sowed a seed of joy within each day. We just need to open our hearts to feel it—to reap with shouts of joy.
There are stories that surround a figure known for her kindness to all God’s creatures, her persistent opposition to the cruelty of established authority, and her extravagant hospitality. She served as figure that bridged the Christian and pagan times of Ireland. She is Saint Brigid.
Questions for you to ponder: What are your sources of joy? On what promises do you rely? In what do you rejoice?
On this third Sunday in Advent, I offer you my thoughts in the greatest of hope!