Summary: We can have the joy of the Lord no matter what our circumstances

Iliff and Saltillo UM Churches

Third Sunday of Advent Joy

December 15, 2002

“Celebrating the Season Whatever Your Circumstances”

Psalm 126


No Christmas This Year

We won’t have a Christmas this year, you say

For now the children have all gone away

And the house is so lonely, so quiet so bare

We couldn’t have a Christmas that they didn’t share.

We won’t have a Christmas this year, you sigh,

For Christmas means things that money must buy.

Misfortunes and illness have robbed us we fear

Of the things that we’d need to make Christmas this year.

We won’t have a Christmas this year you weep

For a loved one is gone, and our grief is too deep.

It will be a long time before our hearts heal,

And the spirit of Christmas again we can feel.

But if you lose Christmas when troubles befall,

You never have really had Christmas at all.

For once you have had it, it cannot depart

When you learn that true Christmas is Christ in your heart. (author unknown)

Today is the third Sunday of Advent--the theme is joy. Many of us lose our joy at the Christmas season because Christmas doesn’t always live up to the expectations we have of it. We place unreasonable demands on it and upon ourselves. We want to be upbeat and happy every minute and the family must get together with no unpleasantness and disagreements. No one will argue and every present will be well received. We look forward to an ideal joyful Christmas

We all have some kind of plans for the holidays. Some will travel “back home” to see relatives and others will welcome family and friends “home for the holidays.” But have you ever gone home only to have that much-anticipated time somehow fall flat? Or have you ever had your eagerly-awaited company end up driving you crazy? Homecomings are not always all they are supposed to be and we inevitably end up losing our joy.

Psalm 126 is called a song of ascents. As pilgrims would “ascend” the rising road to Jerusalem, they would sing some of the Psalms. This one is full of nostalgia of the memory of when God brought the exiles back home in 538 B. C. The day of homecoming was wonderful and the trip back was anticipated with great joy; and when they finally arrived, they felt that it was too good to be true. The people knew about the promises of restoration; but when the actual moment came, it was an overwhelming experience. The Psalm opens by saying, “When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed and our mouths were filled with laughter.” (v. 1). They were excited about what the Lord had done for them, and they were joyful praising the Lord as they looked around. Maybe they thought they would never get back to their home. It was almost too good to be true. When they first got home, they praised the Lord for the great miracle He had done for them and their joy spilled over to everyone around them. Others noticed what great things the Lord had done for them also.

What can we get out of this scripture for us today?

1. Rejoicing in Partial Blessings: The people had endured great sorrow but finally God takes action for His people and brings them out of captivity and back to their homeland. The restoration was not complete yet, but that didn’t matter to them. They were happy and overwhelmed by all that He had done for them up to that point. Even though the walls of the city were broken down, even though things were not “perfect,” yet they experienced a sense of great joy.

Today we are reminded that we can have joy whatever our circumstances. This is because JOY is not dependent upon circumstances like happiness is. Happiness depends on GOOD HAPPENINGS. If I get a raise, I’m happy. If the weather is good, I’m happy. If I get my car fixed and it didn’t cost me very much, I’m happy. If my health is good, I’m happy. But circumstances have a tendency to change like they did for these people of God, and when that happens, happiness is lost.

Joy on the other hand defies circumstances. You can have joy in spite of difficult circumstances because joy is an attitude. Someone once said, “Joy is the feeling of grinning inside.” Are you grinning inside this morning?

Story: There is a story about a little boy in church who was turning around smiling at everyone. He wasn’t gurgling, spitting, humming, tearing the hymnbooks apart, or rummaging through his mother’s purse. He was just smiling. Suddenly his mother jerked him around, and in a stage whisper that everyone could hear, said, "Stop grinning. You’re in church." With that she have him a slap on his hindside, and as the tears rolled down his cheeks she added, "That’s better," and returned to her prayers. If you can’t grin in church, where can you be joyful? (source unknown)

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