Summary: We experience times of joy when we know God is with us.
Joy. Can you think of a time of joy? In preparation for this morning, our third week of Advent, as we spend this season in expectancy and preparation and waiting, I wonder what we recognize as joy. So I took a few moments to reflect on my own life, to find and name the places of joy.
I thought of some times when I laughed long and hard – you know, the kind that the next day you wake up and as you roll out of bed you feel a little soreness in your belly muscles, your cheeks feel tight, and after a moment of wondering you realize both are from how much you laughed. Those were funny, but that’s not joy.
I thought of some times when I was really excited – you know, like the Saskatchewan Roughriders fans were in the last seconds of the Grey Cup football game, when it looked like they had won the game, until the penalty gave the Montreal team a second chance to win (which, if you hadn’t heard, they did). Those times are exciting, but that’s not joy.
I thought of some times when I got something I wanted – you know, the gift you’ve had your eye on, and you were hoping the hints had been heard and the gift might be under the tree. Those times were nice, but they weren’t joy.
Then I remembered one morning at the beginning of November, when I was at the Pastor’s conference in Banff. I’d gotten up early to exercise, gone back to the hotel room and had a relaxing soak in what would best be described as a “bathroom palace”. Joanne was happy and looking forward to her day, Thomas was in Calgary loving his time with grandma and grandpa, and I sat down in a quiet alcove looking out a window at the majestic Rocky Mountains, and had a few minutes in complete peace, prayerful moments, when physically I felt great, relationally I felt great, the creation around me was breathtakingly beautiful, and in it all, I recognized that God was with me. Present, in the moment, with me. That was a time of joy.
I thought of this past Wednesday night, we shared a meal as our Elders board here at church does each year in December. My house was full of people I love, I respect, and I enjoy being with. There was laughter, incredible food, and conversations all around, and in all of it this strong bond of love and unity and mutual dedication to serving God with all ourselves, desiring only to be obedient to Him, and I know that God was present with us. God was there, in each part, from the smile on young Daniel Loewen’s face, through the exuberance of the other kids, and into each of the conversations among the adults. God was there, and it was a time of joy.
And I thought of Saturday morning. Thomas was up first, laying in bed reading one of the Chronicles of Narnia. I came and lay beside him quietly, a few tickles and laughs, and Joanne came in a few minutes later and the three of us were just all together on Thomas’ bed, chatting about just normal life stuff, simply being together in a relaxed, content way. And I know, God was there, smiling with us, present with us. And it was a time of joy.
God With Us – That’s The Point: Is: 7:14, Luke 1:28-35
Is. 7:14 “All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).” (quoted in Matt. 1:23).
Luke 1: “Gabriel appeared to [Mary] and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” 29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” 34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” 35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.”
When I step back and look for joy, when I seek to find and name those, I see one thing very clearly: the times of joy are the times when I know that God is with us. That applies to quiet moments in Banff, Elders gatherings, and being with family; and it applies to the hard times of life – around a graveside, with a struggling friend, in conflict: when we know God is with us, there is joy. Joy is not the feeling of happiness. It is the knowledge in head and heart and spirit, that whatever the external realities God is with us.