I don’t know about all of you but I could use some Good News of Great joy these days.
It seems we keep moving from one calamity to the next.
Each one of them is more heartbreaking than the last one.
After the shooting in Newtown Connecticut some people asked me, “How was it possible to have Christmas joy this year?”
The thought of parents sitting at home with unopened gifts, they had planned to give to children no longer there, was just too heart wrenching to imagine.
It is harder than ever to imagine Good News let alone to imagine this Christmas being filled with Joy.
In fact, the people of Newtown are not the only ones who are experiencing difficult times.
Plenty of people have no apparent reason to be happy this season.
People who are alone, people experiencing deaths, people losing their homes, people losing jobs, people experiencing homelessness, people suffering depression are all suffering this Christmas.
Despite all of this I would like for us to hear the angels this evening.
I would like for us to hear them bring us good news of great Joy.
Because I believe it is possible in all circumstances to know the joy of Christmas.
The problem is the way we think of joy.
We confuse joy with happiness.
Joy is not the same thing as happiness.
Happiness is something we experience from external sources.
If we win the lottery we might be happy.
Happiness is based on luck or good fortune and only last a little while.
Joy on the other hand comes from an inward source.
Joy comes from contentment with yourself and the world around you.
Joy is not about what happens but about how your soul lights up anyway.
We feel joy at weddings, at the birth of children, when seeing someone we love after being apart for a long time, when we give the perfect gift.
Joy comes from deep in our souls.
The angels on that first Christmas night do not proclaim that the shepherds will be happy, only that they will be joyful at what they find in the manager.
The Christ child will light up their insides.
Think about it.
What they go to see in Bethlehem is actually very ordinary.
The birth of a baby, those happen every day.
In fact, today 490,000 babies will have been born somewhere on this planet.
Not only is this just the birth of a baby, but one not worthy of note by the world.
It is not like Prince William and Kate are having a baby.
It is just some ordinary people, unable to get a room, having a child in a manger.
What makes this birth different is that it was sent here for us.
It is sent to give us joy and to light up our insides, and awaken in us something deep in our souls.
Yes even among the tragedies of life, even among sadness and despair we can still proclaim Good News and great joy for all people.
We can do it not because life is all rainbows and gumdrops.
Not because everything is ok with the world.
We are not naive people, but we are people of faith.
And because of that blessing we believe in our souls the joy of Christmas.
You see for us good news comes before the joy.
And that good news is that God has loved us all enough to not remain distant from us.
God has not given up on the world.
These shepherds I am sure all had struggles in their lives.
They all struggled to pay bills, to teach their children, to get along at work.
They lived in some very difficult times filled with great violence, wars, famines, injustices.
And yet the angels still proclaim good news!
That was God’s news, not the world’s news.
And that is one of the essential reasons we can still have joy tonight even with heavy hearts.
Our joy comes from God, it comes from a message that breaks forth into the world and keeps us going.
After Thanksgiving I went to Starbucks and there on the wall was written; “The wait is over. Let the joy begin.”
Our wait is over too!
Jesus has come again to us this night.
We have proclaimed it together in sacred story and in glorious songs.
Tonight we sing even louder, “Joy to the world” because we know that the world needs to hear it.
“No more let sin and sorrow reign.”
Instead let us hear the good news given to all people.
“He comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found.”
Perhaps our vision of what Christmas is also makes us lose sight of what it means to have joy.
If our image of Christmas is only kids and parents gathered around a tree on Christmas morning opening presents than indeed there is no joy this Christmas for many people who simply don’t fit into those easy categories.
But if our image of Christmas is of God coming to touch the earth with sweet songs of good news than Christmas will never let us down.
It will always be here for us, because God is always here for us.
And here is wherever we are.
If we are sad then God is here.
If we are alone then God is here.
If we are lost then God is here.
If we are struggling God is here.
If we are thankful God is here.
And that is what brings us joy deep in our souls.
Tonight I proclaim even louder and with even more confidence that indeed this night there is good news and great joy for all people.
May all of you have a Merry Christmas.