Monday, December 14, 2009

Waiting in Joy

The third Sunday of advent is the Sunday of Joy.
All of our readings for this morning deal with Joy.
For me one of the greatest moments of joy was when my children were born?
On their birthdays we tell them the story from our perspective of what it was like for them to come into the world.
We know that in the life of our children their will other days of great joy.
There will be graduations from high school and college, sporting events, plays, marriage, job success, and many other little moments to rejoice in the accomplishments.
What I would like to suggest to you this morning is that this is the greatest, most important, and most joyful day of our children’s life was their Baptisms.
In fact, our baptisms are the most joyful day of any of our lives.
Because Baptism is not just for those really happy times in life, it is more for the moments in between.
It is for the moments of doubt, fear, frustration, and failure.
Baptism is the moment in our lives when we tie our life journey to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Our Baptism is the day when we receive the blessing of knowing God!
And that is joyful.

As St. Paul writes in his letter to the church in Philippi this morning, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.”
In all things St. Paul encourages us to have joy.
That means in all times of our life the good and the bad.
It is important to have joy in times of great accomplishment and in times of great failure.
It seems like such an odd request.
How is it even possible?
As a parent I have lots of fears about my children’s lives.
Will they be good enough?
Will they find love and faith?
Well they be happy?
Imagine my son Charles in fifteen years getting ready for the junior prom.
Only he is unable to find a date. (I am no way suggesting I think this is going to happen I offer it as a possibility)
You can imagine that this for a seventeen year old would be devastating.
How would one coop with such a monumental hardship?
There is only one way that I can think of and that is through faith.
It is through seeing ourselves as beloved children of God.
For with God we are always cool.
We are always loved.
And with God we can still find joy in all things.

This is why I had my children Baptized, I would assume it is why any of us where Baptized so that our whole life we will know the joy of knowing God’s love given to us.
So when we feel alone we will know that God is with us.
St. Paul tells us that “The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving; let your requests be made known to God.”
God is there for us when our friends fail us, when we feel like there is nowhere else to turn.
In prayer we can turn to God and know through faith that God is there always eager willing and able to hear and listen.
In those times we know that even if we feel like a failure God has something greater in store for us.
In our Baptisms we all have this assurance.

One of my best friends has been living in LA for ten years now.
He has been trying to make a living as a screen writer.
Unfortunately he has not been making it.
Not from lack of trying or even from a lack of talent.
He is smart, he writes wonderfully well.
I have read some of his scripts and would enjoy seeing movies that he has written.
But it just is not working.
I was talking to him on the phone.
He was down because it seems that his dream is slipping from him.
I told him that I believed God had something even greater in store for him.
That God had a purpose to his life, and that someday he will look back and know why all this had happened.
You see that is what faith does for us.
It helps us have a grounding in our lives that allows us to have joy even in the midst of loss, frustration, or suffering.

They did a study that people who grow up as part of a religious community has a better time in life dealing with failure and hard times.
Therefore they had better chance (statically speaking) of being successful.
They had less of a chance of getting divorced, becoming homeless, and dropping out of school, becoming involved in criminal activity and dying earlier.
This is not to say any of this is a guarantee, it is only to say that we give our children a better chance at success, at being able to deal with what is sometimes a cruel world when we give them the gift of knowing God.
It is why we rejoice that we are part of the body of Christ.
I have noticed over the years that a congregation is just brighter and more joyful when there is a Baptism.
It is impossible not to feel the joy of a new baby entering into a lifelong relationship with Jesus Christ.

It is not only us who are joyful when a new life is brought into a relationship with God.
But God is joyful.
One of the startling things about the reading from Zephaniah is that it is not only the people that rejoice, but God rejoice that the people have restored their relationship with God.
“God will rejoice over you with gladness, God will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”
What a great image God is so happy that the people have restored their relationship with him that he is singing in heaven.
Baptism is about our restored relationship with God.
It is about Jesus Christ giving us God’s love forever, and making us a new convent of forgiveness and love.
Now our relationship with God is restored through this water that washes away our sins, and brings us to new life.
And not just on the actual day of our baptism, but on multiple days of our lives.
There are many times when we lose our way, and forget who we are and what we are about.
But when we remember our Baptism, when we remember the joy of our parents, grandparents, when we remember the joy of the God’s people assembled.
Most of all when we remember God’s joy at calling us God’s children then we remember that we belong to a God who will not let us fall, who will be with us in all things, and who will turn away our fears, our frustrations, our failures.

This is what we wait for in advent our joy to be restored.
To remember what God has done, is doing, and will continue to do for us.
God rejoices over us with gladness.
God will renew us in his love.
And will exult with us over with loud singing.

Today God certainly rejoices as we assemble to remember our life with God, to have our joy restored.
We at Concordia are joyful this morning not because everything is great, but because of our faith in God.
A faith that daily renews us and washes us in God’s love and forgiveness.
Perhaps that is why we are so joyful at a Baptism because we as people of faith know how important our faith is to us.
We know how much we rely on Jesus to help us through our lives.
How we rely on Jesus to help us overcome the middle times of our lives.
How we rely on Jesus to help us rejoice always.
Let us today remember our Baptisms and rejoice that God has called us his children
So that we may be able rejoice in the lord always, and know that God always rejoices in us.

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