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Joy in Possibility (December 16, 2012)

While there will be much celebration of happy memories and sadness over difficult losses at this time, part of the core of the Christmas story is the celebration of possibilities, especially ones that seem impossible or illogical.  It is strange to express joy in the birth of a man who was going to die a terrible death, but our story looks beyond his death and his resurrection to personal and global transformations.

Thousands of people over the centuries experienced transformed lives because of their experience of the risen Jesus, and society repeatedly transforms as the principles of his life and teaching overcome cultural walls to the full equality of all people.

Our scripture reading Sunday (Luke 1:26-55) is about an encounter between 2 pregnant cousins and their strange responses to their situation.  They express joy that would seem over the top to many people, and Mary expresses a hope that seems almost surreal.

As we busily prepare for Christmas, distracted by memories, tasks, and regrets, may we take time to consider illogical and impossible possibilities that are in tune with God’s love for the world and the promised Empire of God, and may these possibilities provide cause for joy.

Here are the story and message given on Sunday.

Story:  Dare to Believe 

Is 12:1-6;  Luke 1:26-55 2012 12 16

Sarah liked being cheerful, and it bothered her that everybody seemed grumpy at her school.  Once she realized it bothered her, she examined why it bothered her, and what kind of school she wanted.  She imagined a school where most people smiled most of the time, and where people were kind and helpful to each other.  Her dad had a poster in his reading corner that read, “Be the change you want.”  Sarah made a list of all the things she could do to change the school, from smiling at everyone and learning everyone’s name to looking for opportunities to help others.  She started by imagining her dream school, and letting her feeling of joy at going to such a school fill her.  She practiced this every Sunday evening to get ready for the week ahead.  She persuaded her teacher to use Pay it Forward for a video for their Christmas party.  Finally, she started a Smilers For Ever club which took time for sharing jokes and going on fun trips such as bowling.  They started a monthly contest for best joke of the day, and talked the school into creating reward draws for people who were helpful.  It took 3 years, but her school became close to the school she imagined, and her energy for persisting for 3 years came from the joy she felt each time she imagined it.

 

Joy in What May Be

Fred smiled from ear to ear, and had  a bounce to his step at work on June 26.  After seeing Fred like this all morning, one of his colleagues asked why he was so happy.  Fred replied that he was filled with joy because he had heard that June 27 was tax freedom day, and he wouldn’t have to pay any more taxes for the year.

 

 

Sometimes our joy is well-based, and sometimes it isn’t.  While there will be much celebration of happy memories and sadness over difficult losses at this time, part of the core of the Christmas story is the celebration of possibilities, especially ones that seem impossible or illogical. It is strange to express joy in the birth of a man who was going to die a terrible death, but our story looks beyond his death and his resurrection to personal and global transformations.  We look ahead to a world in which no one is hungry or homeless; where there is an end to war, to a world predicted by Isaiah in which no one will kill or hurt on God’s Holy Mountain.  We look to the past and around in the present, and see people selflessly working for such a world: Doctors without Borders, Craig Kielburger’s international organization of young people, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and Hannah with her Ladybug Foundation.  We have Raging Grannies and Teachers for Peace, the Calgary Homeless Foundation, the Mennonite Central Committee, and Kairos. Tens of millions of

people around the world are working to make the Empire of God real eventually.  And we look to the difference that Jesus has made.

Thousands of people over the centuries experienced transformed lives because of their experience of the risen Jesus, and society repeatedly transforms as the principles of his life and teaching overcome cultural walls to the full equality of all people.

Our scripture reading Sunday (Luke 1:26-55) is about an encounter between 2 pregnant cousins and their strange responses to their situation. They express joy that would seem over the top to many people, and Mary expresses a hope that seems almost surreal.

 

The proud are cast down and the humble are lifted up.  The Million dollar CEOs are sent away hungry and refugees are given a banquet. For most of us these big picture visions are hard to imagine, so we are invited to imagine something about our own futures that could inspire us to feel joy before it is real.  It may be a wedding or a grandchild for parents whose children are not at that stage yet in their lives.  It may be time to pursue a passion or to make a desired difference in the community. So please use a little time now to imagine something new in your life that would help you feel joy even before it becomes real….

On the reverse side of the communion insert are 4 rectangles.  In the upper left hand rectangle, name one or more things that give you joy at St. Matthew’s.  In the upper right hand rectangle, name one or more things that don’t give you joy at St. Matthew’s.  In the lower left rectangle, name something you don’t understand or wonder about.  In the lower right hand rectangle, offer a suggestion.  Do not feel you have to write something in every rectangle, or any rectangle.  When you leave at the end of the service, please either give the insert to me or leave it on the cabinet by the door…

The meal we are about to share is an near impossibility that has touched and touches the lives of hundreds of millions of people. To believe that a meal celebrating the betrayal and death of Jesus 2000 years ago can still change lives stretches our ideas about what is possible.

As we busily prepare for Christmas, distracted by memories, tasks, and regrets, may we take time to consider illogical and impossible possibilities that are in tune with God’s love for the world and the promised Empire of God, and may these possibilities provide cause for joy.  May the Spirit help us find the way to bring those possibilities closer to reality.  Amen.

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