Sunday sermon 15 December 2013 (Advent 3) – the depths of joy

Readings: Isaiah 35:1-10; Luke 1:46-55; Matthew  11:2-11


The readings today are interesting. The one recording the words of Mary in the “Magnificat” (which is Latin for “it glorifies” – i.e. my soul) is an alternate reading to the Psalm for the day. (“magnificat anima mea Dominum”)

All of them refer to JOY – our key word symbolised by the one candle in the circle that is PINK!

The joy of the redeemed entering ZION singing! Isaiah says:    everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away

Jesus tells John some good news about what is happening – hopefully that brought him JOY in prison: , ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see:  the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy  are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor…

There are good reasons here for people to be joyful. To rejoice. To be full of joy.

The danger at Christmas is that we miss the boat – that we get excited about the wrong things.

Of course getting what you wish for does bring joy!

Have a look at this clip to see the looks on peoples’ faces when they get what they want for Christmas:

Won’t you watch this WESTJET VIDEO

Gifts bring joy! I think it’s a great story!

The REAL deal is the REAL gift of Jesus!

It’s worth singing about. Mary’s song of praise was about the joy that comes from a relationship with God.

Look carefully at the words of Luke 1:

46 And Mary said:

‘My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour

The focus – before the gift of Jesus – is on the Lord. Her SOUL (the very depths of her being) glorifies the Lord (even though she is facing the challenge of her life – potential ridicule and shame and dishonour – she worships! She glorifies the Lord.

And in the next verse her SPIRIT – that aspect which makes her alive to God – rejoices in God my saviour!

There is a depth of connection between this young 14 year old girl – clearly BEFORE she encounters angels and pregnancy.

God has his hand upon young children early on – you can see it! The world conspires to knock faith out of them – it needs to be nurtured so that they can have lives set apart for God.

I knew it early on. I can’t explain it – it didn’t come from my family – it came from the Holy Spirit.

I was prayed for at the last healing service of the Presbytery – it was on a Thursday night. God’s affirmation is amazing! I too am rejoicing in God my saviour! I have a freedom to say to you – like Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 in that amazing and significant discussion on Marriage – “and I think that I too have the Spirit of God” – when people pull in the wrong direction or create strife. Or as he did when in discussion with the Philippians about being totally committed to Jesus and pressing on towards the goal of maturity – and of counting everything else as rubbish in comparison to the one thing of knowing Jesus – says: Php 3:15  All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.

To get back to today’s reading – Mary would have been close to God before she was selected.

But there is another angle that is in the texts.

51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.

She declares – prophecies – that the humble and hungry are blessed by God.

Jesus – in the Gospel reading about John being in jail and sending a message to Jesus –‘are you the one?” – poor John having doubts in jail – who wouldn’t – gets this report:

the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[a] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.

This is such a great story – it is good news! It’s worth singing about.

We don’t have a fancy choir to sing about it this year. SO I thought we could enjoy other people’s creativity:

Listen to the Bohemian Rhapsody Christmas musical extravaganza:

PLAY VIDEO – this a great story worth singing about!

What was your favourite line? Mine was this one:

“I’m just a shepherd, nobody loves me,

he’s just a shepherd from a poor family!”

That’s it!

For the most part of the world – people don’t get what they wish for at Christmas.

  • The poor (have you given to CWS sacrificially?)
  • Those in war zones (refugees like Jesus who escaped to Egypt)
  • Those in jail
  • The oppressed
  • You can extend the list

We end with the prophecy of Isaiah – which sings out about the joy of the Lord! We use to sing” Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads!” It goes like this:

But only the redeemed will walk there, and those the LORD has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing;     everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them,  and sorrow and sighing will flee away.



About robinpalmer

I am a Presbyterian Pastor living and working in Browns Bay on the North Shore of Auckland in New Zealand. We moved here at the end of March 2011 after spending five years in Wellington the capital city. I am passionate about what I do - about communicating and writing. I also enjoy my counselling work, especially with young people.

Posted on December 14, 2013, in Sunday Morning Sermons and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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