Sermons

Summary: Lights and Christmas go together like peas and carrots. This message series focuses on the candles of the Advent wreath. The message deals with the candle of joy.

All the Pretty Lights: The Light of Joy

Psalm 96

You can’t have Christmas without lights AND you can’t have Christmas without music. The two go together, as Forrest Gump would say, “Like peas and carrots.” Have you been to Sterlington to see the house on Toucan Cove? The family there has put together a dancing light show that’s 25 minutes long. The lights along the house and throughout the yard dance in rhythm to the sounds of the season. Vanessa and I took the twins up on Thursday evening, and it’s quite impressive.

The songs of the season (at least the religious ones) share a common theme. We sing “Joy to the World, the Lord has come, let earth receive her King.” The words of Psalm 96 and its companion Psalm 98 are reflected in Isaac Watts masterful creation that remains the most published Christian hymn in North America. Joy to the World is not the only song that carries the same theme. Listen to Charles Wesley’s great hymn:

• Hark the herald angels sing

"Glory to the newborn King!

Peace on earth and mercy mild

God and sinners reconciled"

Joyful, all ye nations rise

Join the triumph of the skies

With the angelic host proclaim:

"Christ is born in Bethlehem"

Hark! The herald angels sing

"Glory to the newborn King!"

• And, the refrain from “O Come, O Come Emmanuel proclaims: “Rejoice, Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”

• Can we forget O Come All Ye Faithful? Doesn’t it say how we’re supposed to come? “Joyful and triumphant.”

• And, of course, there is the magnificent Angels from the Realms of Glory:

o Angels we have on heard high

o Sweetly singing ore the plains

o And the mountains in reply

o Echoing their joyous strains

Each of the songs of the season echo exactly what the Psalmist sang in Psalm 96:11 – 13…

11 Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice!

Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise!

12 Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy!

Let the trees of the forest sing for joy

13 before the Lord, for he is coming!

The season is the “joyous” season, and we light the candle (the pink candle) to symbolize the Lord, Jesus Christ, our joy. On this Gaudete Sunday (yes, that’s what it’s called—it’s Latin for “rejoice”) we light a pink candle because the color goes back in church tradition 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 one Sunday to feast and celebrate the coming joy. On this day, the pope (yes, I said the pope—and, yes, the Advent candle is a strange mix of Catholic, Lutheran and other traditions) 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.

There is, though, a bit of a hollow ring each year at Christmas when we speak of joy. Christmas is, for many, the saddest time of the year. Many people find the stress of the holiday season overwhelming. Others battle depression, social isolation and loneliness. Still others are grieving the loss of a loved one. I mean, think about this, we’ve had two deaths in our church family just this past week. It’s hard to be joyous when you’re grieving. Songs of joy, and smiling faces, and parties and gifts and such don’t really mean that much when you’re living on the street in a cardboard box, or in a shelter with just the clothes on your back.

There are, in fact, a lot of people having a “Chippie” moment right now. You know who “Chippie” is, right? Max Lucado, in his book In the Eye of the Storm tells Chippie’s story. 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.

With her heart in her mouth, she opened the vacuum bag to rescue poor Chippie. Chippie was stunned and covered head to foot with gray dust, but thankfully he was still alive. She grabbed him and rushed him to the bathtub, turned on the cold water full blast and held him under the water giving him a power washing. Then it dawned on her that Chippie was soaking wet and shivering, so she did what any compassionate pet-owner would do. She snatched up the blow dryer and blasted him with hot air.

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