Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Third Sunday of Advent @ St Luke's

St Luke's - 3rd Sunday of Advent - 15th December 2013:

Introduction to Advent:

Week three of Advent. 10 more sleeps go. Christmas trees are up, Christmas CD's are out. Christmas movies are playing - Home Alone, Jingle all the Way, Die Hard. We're closer still again. We're counting down.

And here at St Luke's we're journeying towards Christmas and we're making sure we're mindful of the reason for the season, making sure were mindful of the hope, peace, joy and love that Christmas promises in Jesus Christ.

Christmas Reorientation: (stand and read aloud together)

Christmas is coming
Some see this as "the silly season" - as a
time of stress and anxiety
We chose though, not to be consumed by the consumerism.
Christmas is the coming of Christ into the world
Rather than be frantic, we will be still.
We celebrate Jesus, Immanuel, God with us. Everywhere.
A new way of living, a new day has dawned
Though there may be darkness, The Light has come.
We remember that Christmas is hope, peace, joy and love
Christmas is Christ.

Advent Wreath and Candles:

As we get closer to Christmas, each Sunday we're also lighting another candle in our Advent wreath. The light of Christ is coming into the world.

The four candles around the outside represent hope, peace, joy and love; and then in the middle we have a white Christ candle.

We don't light them all at once though, rather we light them one at a time, as we journey towards the coming of Christ into the world. In doing so we remember the waiting of Advent, we'd love to rush the work of Jesus in our lives and in our world, but all to often waiting is involved.

The light gets brighter and brighter as we journey forwards though.

Today's candle is pink, pink is the colour of joy, the colour of rejoicing.

So this morning I need three kids to come and give me a hand...

Joy - Based on Isaiah 35: (one person leads and everyone else joins in)

Lead: The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like spring flowers it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing.
All: Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. 
Lead: Then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. 
All: And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing. 
Lead: Everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness.
All: Sorrow and sighing shall flee away. He will wipe away every tear. Goodwill and joy to all!
Joy to the World - Issac Watts
Hark the Herald Angels Sing
- Charles Wesley 
Oh Come All Ye Faithful
- John Francis Wade
Adults verse Children Christmas Quiz:
The bible teaches that the wise men returned to their homeland glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen? False – the bible teaches that the shepherds went back to their fields saying this, Luke 2:20.KIDS: On Christmas Day, what would you find a joke inside of? Christmas cracker.
ADULTS: How many wise men visited Jesus? No specific number is given.KIDS: How many doors of an advent calendar would you open before Christmas Day arrives? 24
ADULTS: In Christian tradition what are the names of the supposed three wise men? Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar.KIDS: What gifts did the three wise men take to baby Jesus? Gold, frankincense and myrrh.
ADULTS: Santa has nine reindeer, can you name them all? Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and the last but not least Rudolph!!!!KIDS: What type of food is typically left out for Santa on Christmas Eve? Cookies and milk.
 ADULTS: Tim Allen stars in three The Santa Clause Movies, number one was The Santa Clause, number three was The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause. What was number two? The Santa Clause 2: The Mrs Clause.KIDS: What native New Zealand tree is referred to as New Zealand's Christmas Tree? The Pohutakawa
ADULTS: What line in Away in a Manger is considered by some to be heresy? No crying he makes.KIDS: Is the Christmas Carol Hark the Herald Angels sing nearly 200 years old or nearly 300 years old? Nearly 300 years. Written 1739.

There is a Saint that Santa Clause / Father Christmas might be named after, Saint who? Saint Nicholas.ADULTS: Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of 7 different things, name two of them? Sailors, merchants, archers, thieves, children, pawnbrokers and students in various cities and countries around Europe.

ADULTS: What where Christmas trees traditionally decorated with prior to the 18th Century? Edibles such as apples, nuts and dates and also candles.
Traditionally which is true, you set your Christmas tree up 12 days before Christmas or, you pack your Christmas tree up 12 days after Christmas? Set up or pack up? Pack up.
ITEM: Oh Holy Night - Adolphe Adam
Sermonette: (Lisa McAuley)

It is the 3rd Sunday of Advent!  We have chatted about peace and hope, my task at hand is to spend this next 15 or so minutes talking about joy!

First, though, we are going to watch a clip, not about joy, in fact its quite the opposite. Sometimes the best way to describe/ define  something is to explore its opposite, its antonym.

When I was pondering the meaning of  joy and what it really was and what it looked like, what it smelt like and then what was what joys opposing force, "depression" was the best description for me of what was essentially the opposite of joy.

I really appreciated that clip, gave me a greater understanding of depression and its knock on effects. That story of the black dog and that particular man's journey, Matt Johnstone, had some lines that stood out to me...

            - surprise you with visits
            - no rose coloured glasses, black dog classes
            - Devoid of feeling
            - Isolated you
            - Lost your joy, what was the point of life
            - Missed out on life

I haven't personally  suffered from depression but  so often I have heard it described as that cloud that follows you, seems relentless in its perusal of you and the result  is the loss of happiness, feeling and meaning.

I'm sure a lot of people can relate to that, have related to that or know someone who perhaps deals with depression on a daily basis.

At times depression has become a bit of a catch line, "I'm so depressed, I'm having such a bad hair day", "I'm so depressed, we lost the cricket again". That's not depression but more the roller coaster of life and our emotions. "I'm so happy, got an hour to have a coffee kid free but then  I'm mad that was the worst coffee ever, but the I'm happy again because I am off to go down town to buy a friend a present to I'm angry because I got back to my car and had a parking meter ticket but then I am happy because a friend had a baby but then I'm sad because someone I loved is distant."

On that roller coaster as well as being the minor twists and turns there will always be the extreme highs and the very low lows. The happiness and the sadness and the madness and the gladness are all determined by those external forces/circumstances and there is usually a time frame attached.

Depression though is something that hangs over you, that journeys with you. If depression can be described as the black dog / cloud that hangs over you - state of being,  the same came be said when it comes to joy.

Joy is that combined sense of peace, hope, love and possibility that journeys with you throughout the full spectrum of circumstances we experience in life.

And, though perhaps that may seem like a possibility too good to be true, especially if depression is something you're dealing with in life, Christmas is a time where we celebrate that  in Christ, joy is possible, joy can be found.

The true source of unrivalled joy was birthed in this very season. Thank God it's Christmas.

Luke 2:4-12
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her first born, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Christ is about to enter the story.

God wasn't content to let humanity live on in hopelessness but rather invade our world in order that peace, hope, love and joy might be true realities in our lives. The angels declared that this baby lying in a manger was a cause for great joy for all people. A Saviour has come. One that rescues. One that heals. One that lifts you out of the mud and mire and sets your feet upon a rock.

Grace. Forgiveness. Healing. Hope. Possibility. A today worth getting up for and a tomorrow worth getting up for. Peace that surpasses all understanding. Strength in our weakness. Pain that will be exchanged for joy.

Joy, hope, peace and love are not fluffy ideas that make for popular tattoos - sure realities that are found in Christ.

Psalm 28
The Lord is my strength, my shield from every danger. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me and my heart is filled with joy.

Like depression is the cloud, joy is an abiding sense of happiness, though there might be moments or seasons of sadness, even these are tempered with a confident expectation that the sun will soon return piercing the darkness caused by the passing clouds. So much so, that it is possible to have deep joy even amidst the grey clouds of life, before the sun comes through. 

Now I don't say all of this today as a suggestion for a quick and easy step to deal with depression, put your tree up, turn the lights on, sing some carols, eat some Christmas fruit mince tarts and you'll be away laughing.

Rather though, I say this so that we might all be reminded that...
We stand together with those of you that suffer from depression or anxiety on a daily basis.
We stand together with those of you that have had a bad day, a bad week, a bad year.
Those of you that are feeling tired or worn out.
Those of you that are feeling lost this Christmas. Away from home. Missing a loved one that cant be with you due to geographical distance or a loved one that has passed on.
And of course those that feel like everything is ticking along beautifully in life at the moment, 2013 has been a great year, maybe your best yet.

I say this so that we might all look at the small flickering light of the Advent wreaths 'joy' candle, and be reminded of where joy ultimately comes from, Christ not circumstances. And, that even if for you things feel dark at the moment, that you'd be reminded that only a little light is needed to make inroads against the darkness.

May this Christmas might we be mindful that the coming of Christ is not only a reason to have joy, but the true foundation of joy.

The same charge Nehemiah gave to the Israelites I give to you today.

Nehemiah 8:10
“Go home and prepare a feast, holiday food and drink; and share it with those who don’t have anything: This day is holy to God. Don’t feel bad. The joy of God is your strength!”

Some of you are particularly 'Christmas' and your house looks like the north pole, lights everywhere.....etc. Fantastic.

Some of you though that's not your thing. It doesn't have to be. Perhaps this week though you could light a solitary candle. A joy candle. Be reminded this Christmas that a little light is all that is needed

Joy isn't being happy even when Snoopy's Christmas is playing. 
Joy is not the expression on your face but the hope you have in your heart.
It's peace dancing and it is found in Christ.

Close in prayer.

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