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The Joy of Sharing and Shining

December 15, 2011

Even eternal life with our Lord is not the full extent of our joy! We also have the joy of helping prepare other hearts for Jesus!

John the Baptist’s words about our relationship of love with Our Lord being like that of a bride and bridegroom were spoken when John’s own disciples came to him to tell him that people were moving to follow Jesus, instead of him. The whole passage reads:

You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 1:28-30).

It was the fulfillment of John’s joy to help connect people with Jesus.

It is ours, also. 

Today’s Old Testament Reading, Isaiah 61, says:

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion— to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit (verses 1-3).  

You may remember that after Jesus was Baptized, he quotes this passage as setting forth the mandate for his mission. Now, having been Baptized by Jesus with the Holy Spirit, as John the Baptist predicted, so that his Spirit is filling us, our mandate is to continue Jesus’ mission, as his hands and feet in the world.

We are called to help remove any boulders, any obstacles that are hindering the free movement and reign in the world of our King of love, as Mary said in her Magnificat, which we read as our Canticle, levelling inequalities (another way to understand the words in last week’s passage from Isaiah [40:4] that “every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low”), so that the hungry are filled with good things.  

Many places around our building, we have one of my favourite quotes from Frederick Buechner: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” The yearning for God’s Presence is the deepest hunger of all. It is an awesome joy to connect spiritually starving people with the One who is the Bread of life.

During the height of the worldwide influenza epidemic of 1918, churches and all public gathering places in many places were ordered closed. Yet more than ever, it was then that people needed hope and consolation. Burdened by his inability to reach out to people in their time of need, one pastor thought of the magnificent stained glass windows that graced his church. Those windows faced a major thoroughfare and were large and commanding in design. He had numerous floodlights placed inside the church; illumination through the glass to the outside world gave passers-by the full effect of the window’s story. There for all to see were the matchless portrayals of Jesus: Jesus the good shepherd bearing a lamb on his bosom; Jesus the searching Saviour rescuing the lost sheep; Jesus praying in Gethsemane; Jesus on the Cross; Jesus triumphant in Resurrection glory. The silent sermons of light and stained glass spoke an eloquent message that in the midst of the greatest darkness, Jesus is the light of the world.

It is our joyous privilege to be witnesses, like John, who testify to the light, by allowing this light to shine through our lives in our thoughts, words, and deeds. As we do, it will, like John, be the fulfillment of our joy to see the broken-hearted bound up, the captives set free, and the mourning comforted by our living, loving Lord.

With all this joy, we can see that it has truly been said that a “joyless Christian” is an oxymoron! How fitting it is for us to celebrate “Rejoice Sunday” today, in the middle of Advent, for the coming of Our Lord into our hearts, and the hearts of others he loves, IS our joy everlasting! 

Joy to the world! The Lord is come:
let earth receive the King;
let every heart prepare him room,
and heaven and nature sing. Amen.
(adapted from the conclusion to my sermon at our December 11 Services)

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  1. The Source of True Joy « Pastor's Postings

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