Summary: This is just to say, a special gift is on the way!
All I Want for Christmas Is…Joy
Rev. Brian Bill
I like reading letters that children write at Christmas. Here are two new ones I came across this week.
“Dear Santa, there are three little boys who live at our house. There is Jeffrey; he is two. There is David; he is four. And there is Norman; he is seven. Jeffrey is good some of the time. David is good some of the time. But Norman is good all of the time. I am Norman.”
“Dear Santa, you did not bring me anything good last year. You did not bring me anything good the year before that. This is your last chance. Signed, Alfred.”
It’s not easy to wait, especially when we’re expecting something really exciting. Have you heard the song about a little girl lamenting the loss of her two front teeth? It was written by a music teacher in 1944 after asking his class what they wanted for Christmas.
Every body stops
and stares at me
These two teeth are
gone as you can see
I don’t know just who
to blame for this catastrophe!
But my one wish on Christmas Eve
is as plain as it can be!
All I want for Christmas
is my two front teeth,
my two front teeth,
see my two front teeth!
At Christmas, most people are wishing for something more than their two front teeth. Many of us are longing for something that we feel we don’t have. Some of us secretly say: “If I could only have this…then I’d be happy.” Some of us are on a search for something elusive, just out of reach. Could it be that we’ve misplaced what is “merry” about Christmas?
Oh, that reminds me that I’ve lost a few things. I think they’re in this room somewhere. [Look around auditorium and identify a person who exhibits joy; another who looks peaceful; someone else who has experienced forgiveness and then find Rachel Watson who is playing Hope at the Christmas outreach].
The prophet Isaiah ministered some 700 years before Jesus was born and brought a message that contained both bad news of judgment and good news of joy, peace, forgiveness and hope. Please turn in your Bible to Isaiah 61:1-3 and as I read I’ll pause where I see these four themes that will make up our sermon subjects this month: “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. [JOY] He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, [PEACE] to proclaim freedom for the captives [FORGIVENESS] and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor [HOPE] and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion -- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness [JOY] instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair…”
Our focus today is on joy. Isaiah looks ahead to the time when glad tidings will be preached to the sad and the sorrowful, to the depressed and the despondent. To “proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” was a promise of a joyful jubilee. This must have been good news to those who were grieving. The “garment of praise” would replace the sackcloth of sadness. Ashes represent anguish while oil stands for joy in the Bible.
God’s people had been pummeled with problems and yet, in the midst of the mess they were in, these words filled them with a longing for something more. They had waited a long time for a special gift from God. That reminds me of the woman who frantically bought a box of 50 identical Christmas cards so she could get them in the mail on time. She hastily opened each card and signed her name without bothering to read what was printed inside. Several days after they had been mailed, she came across one leftover card and discovered to her dismay that the inside had these words: “This card is just to say, a special gift is on the way.”
Throughout the Old Testament, God declares: “This is just to say, a special gift is on the way.” On this first Sunday in Advent, our focus is on the joy that comes from the special gift of Jesus, announced to a group of shepherds in Luke 2:8-11. Let’s fast forward from the time of Isaiah to a hillside outside Bethlehem. The angelic announcement reverberates with the refrain spoken by Isaiah seven centuries earlier: “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. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”