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“(A ringing cry of) Joy”/ Sermon for December 17th, 2023 / Hope Lutheran Church, Rev. Lucas Andre Albrecht

Text: John 1:19-28; Psalm 126
Theme: “(A ringing cry of) Joy”

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Intr-  When a mother is giving birth by natural means, it is not uncommon for here to cry, right? I mean, not just to shed tears, but to yell, or scream. If you could be near the birth room, you would hear quite a few ringing cries coming out of it. Thinking of this special moment in a mother’s life, my question for you today is: how would you classify those shouts, screams, or as I call today, ringing cries, are they cries of sadness or happiness?

This question can be a little tricky. We can say that they are cries of sadness and pain, for she is suffering a lot. But at the same time, it is a cry of happiness and gladness joy for she is delivering her much awaited baby.

Happiness and gladness in the mist of sadness and pain. That is a good definition for “Joy”, our theme for the Third Sunday in Advent. Perhaps not your average description of joy, but one that works super well. When we think about “Joy” in the Christian perspective, we are talking about shouting for Joy as our Baby King is born amid a world and a life that is full of pain and sadness. Our life in Christ is lived amid the pleasures and pains of living our faith in this world.

This definition is supported when we look to Psalm 126. There, the word “joy” more than once, and the Hebrew vocable for it is רִנָּה, Rinah. Here’s the interesting thing about translating this word, it can have two main meanings. It can be translated as  “joy”, but also as a ringing cry”.[1] Usually a ringing cry of joy, but that can be also one of grief, depending on the context. It points to the Biblical truth that joy is found not after pain, not after everything is made right in our lives, but it happens as we are going through it.[2]

This is what Joy in Advent and Christmas is about: a ringing cry of believing hearts that celebrate the coming of the Messiah.

1 – JOY

I mentioned before sadness and happiness together forming our Joy in the Lord. To be clearer, here’s the difference between Happiness and oy from a Christian perspective:

Happiness – a feeling attached to some circumstance. It is more of an external condition. For example, when you get married, or get a raise, or realize an accomplishment. Happiness comes and goes. Often, we may feel that we are not happy, because life is not a sequence of good happenings. Therefore, we need more than that.

Joy – certainty attached to the unchanging Truth. Joy is attached to Christ and His word. As he promised in the New Testament. “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.? (John 15:11) Hearts that are full, rejoice (John 16:22), Also, “the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 13:52) Joy us a gift of the Holy Spirit of God in which we hold on to Christ we believe his forgiveness and now we live as His disciples. The Joy in the Lord is our strength.[3]

2 – Ringing Cries of Joy

In the Gospel today we have a Bible character that knows well what Joy in the Lord is. John the Baptist – the voice crying in the wilderness. Was it a cry of happiness or sadness? Both = Joy

Listen to some of the highlights of his life and think how you would feel having to do the same.

-He lived in the wilderness. No comfort, no Netflix, no hot water.

-He ate locusts and wild honey. No barbecue pork ribs, no pizza, no food delivery.

-He was challenged by the leaders of his time. Failure to comply could result in serious damage for this reputation and life.

-He was on his own. No wife, no children, no friends, no Saturday morning coffee buds.

There is still one hard thing in his life, perhaps the hardest of them all: He dedicated his entire ministry to point to someone else. The previous ones are hard, but this is harder. How do you build up your entire career having to point to someone else who is bigger, more important, and more expected than you? We take it for granted but it demanded a lot of him. A lot of faithfulness to God, humility, and willingness to serve.

Still, he is the ringing voice in the wilderness. Where does his joy come from? I would summarize it in his mission: It came from pointing to Jesus. If he pointed to himself, he would soon lose his joy. As he fulfilled his mission of pointing to Christ, he kept his ringing cry of joy going.

We see ringing cries we see on Psalm 126 – sadness and happiness = joy. There by the way we see this beautiful picture that is a good illustration of our joy in the Lord. Those who sow in sorrow shall reap in joy.[4]

Thinking about this picture, sowing in sorrow. Look at your life. How do you classify these situations

-You have a challenge you must overcome

-In order to accomplish something important you must endure pain

-In order to live faithfully with Christ you have to suffer the revile and aggressions from the World;

-You lost your job

-You are unsure about your future

-You have the Advent or Christmas Blues

If a ringing cry would come off your mouth at that moment, would it be happiness of sadness? What I would say is that it will be both. It will be joy in the Lord. You trust and you endure. You smile and you cry. You win and you lose. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. But the Joy of the Lord remains, in your daily life, as a constant. He continues to be the Baby King who came to bring hope and peace to your heart. Therefore, you have joy in your days, even in the dark or gloomy ones. Christ’s Joy does not go away when darkness come, for Christ has overcome darkness. Jesus knew Joy at its core – he suffered horribly to death, but with the extreme gladness obeying the Father in our behalf.  Joy in its most perfect expression.

Now, as I mentioned before, there is something called advent or Christmas Blues. Not everyone is showing happiness at this time, even though Joy, as we defined here, is still there. In this context we might hear the argument, “It is easier to talk about joy and knowing hope when things are well, but when bad things happen it is a different story”. Well, first, we don’t know. I might be preaching about joy here from a point of intense suffering that no one knows. You may be sitting here smiling at me with a painful situation stinging your heart. We should never assume. But yes, It is a different story after all, however the Saviour is still the same. To this point, I wanted to share with you the following story from real life:

Years ago, I met this lady who was the leader of a recycling plant cooperative. My friend Mr. Francisco Lopes, a social therapist and theologian who has developed a remarkable social work in that plant, introduced me to her. In the conversation, she shared some hard times she had gone through in her life. She had her workplace burned down on a given Christmas Eve. Most of the equipment, materials, supplies were destroyed in a few hours. After some time, she lost a son and grandson on Good Friday. Sometime later, she also lost her husband. A few more months went by, and a fire happened in her house. Now she even had no bed to sleep in. Not to mention other, let’s say, “minor” problems, such as living in a rough neighborhood and having a physical disability.

After she recalled all those episodes, Mr. Lopes asked: “In the midst of all that you have suffered in your life, how do you see Jesus Christ in your life this?”

What would come next? What would her answer be? It might come out in anger. Perhaps in disappointment. Or worst of all, complete indifference. What he heard though was a short, calm, and confident reply. She said: “He is the Living Water that quenches my thirst and gives me the strength to continue every day.” [5]

This is not a story to diminish your suffering. Situations in life vary, but suffering is real for each person. This story reminds us of Christmas, Emannuel, God with us in the best and in the worst situations. This is a powerful testimonial coming from someone who by our standards might have had all the reasons to provide an angry response. Someone who knows what suffering means. But she also knew what trusting is. Above all, she was living in the joy of the Lord that is our strength, as Paul tells us. She lived and believed in the promises of restoration made by God to His people that never fade away. Jesus has recycled our hearts to belong to him so that we may live in joy. Even when things go wrong. Even if we are sad, angry, or disappointed. He promises refuge, shelter, and strength in the face of the tragedies and the pain of being. Beyond what human reason can comprehend.

 

Cc – In that stable in Bethlehem, on a cold, bright night, a young mother gave birth by natural means. She probably rang a few cries as the birth approached. Cries the pains of birth. A cry of sadness. But she was bringing to the World its Saviour. A ringing cry of joy. Joy to the World. Joy in its more sublime, special, and saving state. Jesus.

 

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[1] https://biblehub.com/hebrew/7440.htm

[2] “Can you feel the tension in this word? It’s both a cry of prayer and a praise. It’s a powerful word, a powerful concept. It shows that joy is found not after pain, not after everything is made right but in the midst of it. The only way this is possible is because of the work of the Lord. He is the only one who can enter our pain and fill us with joy.”  https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/how-to-know-joy-comes-in-the-morning-in-your-darkest-hour.html

[3] Nehemiah 8:10

[4] We see ringing cries in Isaiah too, even though not with the same Hebrew word. But there we see Proclamation of God’s promises – the only ones that can bring us Joy.

[5] Story originally published in: http://toquedevida.blogspot.com/2009/11/continuar.html

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THE MARGARET TOWRISS’ MEMORIAL SERVICE AND RECEPTION

This Saturday, February 24th, we will hold The Memorial Service, followed by a Reception, for Margaret Towriss, wife of our former Pastor Rev. Ron Towriss, and co-founder of Hope Lutheran School.  Given the impact of her legacy both in Church and community, we anticipate a large attendance for both events. Therefore, we wish to share general information about the events with those attending in person.

SERVICE

-Memorial Service: 1:00PM @ Hope Lutheran Church (3151 York Street)

-Church capacity: aprox. 300

-Overflow area: As the Sanctuary and the Narthex become full, there will be an overflow area in four classrooms in the South annex for those willing to watch the Service together.

-Livestream: the Service will be livestreamed on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/hopelcspoco

-Parking lot: It will be open on a “First come, first served” basis. When full, it will be closed, and people are invited to park in the adjacent streets and in the neighbourhood. However, drivers can still drive through to drop of passengers by the Church door, and then drive away.

-Overflow Parking: We have graciously obtained the permission from the Ecole Pionniers to use their Parking lot as overflow parking. Hope’s School Bus will be available for shuttling people from that parking lot to the Church from 12pm-4pm. Address: 1618 Patricia Ave

-Memorials: The Towriss family’s suggestion is that memorials be directed to The Hope Lutheran Bursary Fund. A Memorial box to deposit your donation will be available at the Church, as well as QR codes printed in the Church bulletin.

RECEPTION:

-Event: Following the Service we will have a standing reception in the gymnasium (since there’s no room for tables for such a large attendance). However, coffee stations will be placed in other areas of the building, allowing attendants to spread out more comfortably.

-Chairs – Several dozen chairs will be available around the Gym’s Court, which we hope will be left open for seniors and people with special needs.

-Space: During the reception, attendants may feel free to make use of our facilities as needed - Gymnasium, Narthex, Sanctuary and South Annex.

Hope Lutheran Church and School and the Towriss family thank you in advance for your understanding of the exceptional circumstances of both events. But especially, for your presence and support. Thank you!