Summary: A sermon for the third Sunday of Advent. Joy.

Surprised by Joy

Text (Philippians 4:4-7 TNIV)

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say it, Rejoice. Let all people know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This is the season of Joy. It is a time where it is said… joy has come. It is a time when we sing joy to the world. And today… we light the candle of joy. The candle is the odd man out glowing, the only pink candle amongst three purple. If you know nothing of church tradition… it doesn’t take too much to know that today is special.

Today is special because of joy. The candle is pink… because of joy. And to give you the briefest of history lessons… the color goes back to a single pink rose during the season of lent. During the lenten season that was traditionally marked with fasting, the early church singled out a single Sunday to feast and celebrate the coming joy.

On this day, the pope would give out a single pink rose to honor an outstanding citizen. Clergy even began to wear pink vestments and decorate the church in pink to mark the day. Well… we have lost the seven candles of lent… but gained the four candles of advent. And amidst the four candles you still see a single pink candle… the candle of joy.

But now, I ask you… what is joy? This could really be a hard question to answer. I mean… there can be so many different things that bring us joy. Joy for me is probably not the same thing as joy for you. The TV has recently been offering hundreds of different shopping ideas, each one guaranteed to bring joy. Get a new car wrapped in a big red bow, get that diamond necklace and earring set, or get that shiny new play station three! But then there is the joy of family… the joy of a job well done. And I could go on and on. I guess if we are going to get anywhere… I must ask… why on earth is that candle pink. Now we know the historical reason… but what is the theological reason behind the pink color. It is not pink for the sake of cars, or jewelry, or electronics, nor is it pink for family or job satisfaction. So… why is it pink? Is there such a thing as “church joy?”

Looking through some of my story collections I was able to find one illustration that dealt with “church joy” and I would like to share it with you now.

A small boy in the pew in front of you suddenly turns around and smiles a huge grin. He looks from person to person, smile stretching all the way back to those in the back pew. He isn’t gurgling, spitting, humming, tearing apart the hymnbooks, or rummaging through his mother’s purse. He is just smiling. Suddenly, his mother jerks him around, and with a stage whisper that everyone can hear, she says, “Stop grinning. You’re in church.” With that she gives him a slap on his backside, and as the tears roll down his cheeks she adds, “That’s better.”

While humorous… I fear the honesty behind this story. Church is not always thought of as a place where we can smile. This is often where people come when the going gets the toughest. And this is doubly true during times of deep trouble! This is where you will find doors open and candles being lit in the wake of national crisis. This is where people often bring their biggest and heaviest burdens to lay down at the foot of the cross. And you can practically see the weight on their shoulders. How could we even possible think of grinning when the person next to us is in the verge of tears.

On any given Sunday, we could have a “Chippie” visiting us in the greatest distress, needing comfort and guidance… wracking their brains in prayer. Oh… what is a “Chippie.” Let me introduce you to a small parakeet by the name of Chippie. It all began when Chippie’s owner decided to clean out his cage with a vacuum. She stuck the nozzle into the cage to clean up the bottom of the cage. Suddenly the phone rang. She reached for the phone with her free hand and not realizing it… her hand holding the nozzle rose slowly upward and sucked Chippie into the vacuum cleaner. Realizing what she had done, she dropped the phone and turned off the vacuum.

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