Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: A sermon about joy versus happiness.

Romans 16:25-27

“Changing Thermometers”

A British medical doctor shared a story about his interaction with Doris, an 82-year-old hospital patient.

Two days before Christmas, Doris appeared to be healthy and ready to be discharged.

But for some reason she kept complaining about unexplainable health issues.

The doctor wrote, “Yesterday it was her arm that was hurting, before that her hip.

Truth is, Doris is an incredibly healthy 82-year-old, and we can’t find anything wrong.

I have no doubt that it will be the same today.”

When the tests came back normal, the doctor told Doris that he would have to stick to the plan of sending her home.

Doris looked down at the floor and quietly said, “I don’t want to go home…

…It’s just that I’m all alone and there are so many hours in the day.”

Then, after a long pause, she sighed and asked, “Doctor, can you give me a cure for loneliness?”

The doctor reflected on this:

“I wish I could say yes.

I wish I could prescribe something for her.

It’s just that she has been left behind by a world that no longer revolves around her, not even the littlest bit.

There are thousands like her, men and women, for whom time stands empty as they wait in homes full of silence.

They are no longer coveted by a society addicted to youth.”

He finished up, “Doris is alone, and it brings home the truth of this epidemic that we have on our hands—and epidemic of loneliness…

…sheepishly I insist that Doris spends her Christmas this year on the ward, and I can see her mood lift.

But I steel myself for the inevitable influx of unwanted grandparents whom I know will arrive, I cannot help but wonder how it is that things could have gone so badly wrong.”

How is it that things have gone so badly wrong?

And you know, it is not just the elderly who feel the sense of loneliness, isolation and meaninglessness.

Teenagers are particularly prone to these kinds of feelings, even as they are surrounded by a classroom full of other kids.

And adults, living with relationship problems and a life fixated on the acquisition of material wealth find themselves awkwardly, surprisingly and sadly alone.

Is there a cure for this sadness, this melancholy, this alone-ness?

The Christmas Season is a time of hopeful anticipation, but it begins with the acknowledgement of human despair.

We are all sinners in need of a Savior.

Left to our own devices, we find life unbearable.

Yet the message of Christmas is “God is with us.”

And because of this…

…because of all that God has done and all that God continues to do in and through Jesus Christ, life can be much more than a lonely existence filled with unfilled hours of nothing-ness.

Our Scripture lesson is a joy-filled “word of glory” praising God for the greatest of all gifts!!!

And isn’t this what we all need most on this Sunday before Christmas…

…as so many of us yearn to move beyond worldly worries and constraints into the joyful praise that God’s goodness and generosity bring?

Procrastinators in our culture of consumerism are beginning to panic…I know I am.

Fatigue and financial concerns weigh heavily on many.

Grief overwhelms those facing their first Christmas without a loved one.

And we prepare to celebrate Christmas amid a world filled with war, terrorism, poverty, disease, and natural disasters.

This situation where our hope and our reality collide make this passage from Romans especially timely.

In our Scripture Lesson for this evening, Paul describes the only One Who “is able” to strengthen us and bridge the chasm that human sin created, so that we can live in relationship together.

And this incredible gift is not offered to a select few, but to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord!!!

And what does God want from us in return?

Paul simply says to “believe and obey him.”

Rather than adding legalistic requirements for people who so often feel overwhelmed by the challenges of daily living, believing and obeying God means trust in God’s promises, anchoring our hope in God’s goodness, and glorifying God with hearts filled with joy!

And these kinds of attitudes and actions come not from some insatiable desire to “earn God’s favor,” but from our gratitude for God’s grace, redemption, and love that we have already been given, and which we are now experiencing!!!

As Christians, we are able to find real meaning and goodness in our lives only to the degree that we trust in God’s promises!!!

And as we celebrate the birth of God in human flesh, are we not reminded as to how completely trustworthy God is?

Reaching out to us, in spite of “the fall,” God loves us enough to become like us so that we can become more like God!!!

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