Friday, December 16, 2011

Advent is like a joy ride...

Advent is a like a joy ride....
Sermon for Year B Advent 3

Now on Advent 1
I said that Advent was like an alarm clock.

Last week, on Advent 2,
I said that Advent was like chocolate.
But today--Advent 3--
I am saying Advent is like a joy ride.

Not the kind of joy ride where you steal a car
and go careening out of the parking lot on two wheels,
laying rubber.
But the kind of joy ride
like the first time you ever rode your two wheeler without training wheels,
or your first motorcycle ride
or just a ride in the car with someone you love,
going no place in particular,
just riding for the joy of going for a ride.

Today is the third Sunday of Advent
and today we have three candles lighted on our Advent Wretath.
Today we lit the pink--or the rose--colored candled.

If you remember we have a rose colored candle today
because this is known as Gaudete Sunday.

Gaudete is the Latin for “rejoice.”
If we were doing the mass in Latin we would say,
Gaudete in Domino semper
Rejoice in the Lord always.

Some churches even have special vestments for this Sunday--
rose colored vestments.
These rose colored vestments are only worn twice in the liturgical year--
once on the third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday)
and once on the fourth Sunday of Lent (Laetere Sunday)
(remember our Laughter Sunday dinner on Laetere Sunday this past Lent?)

Both of these Sundays are seen as special times of refreshment,
feasting and joy.

Today we “officially” celebrate the joy of the coming birth of Christ.
Some people even call the pink candle the joy candle.

Some of you know that I have been away part of this week.
I was helping lead an Advent retreat up in Valle Crucis.
I offered several meditations about Advent.
One of those meditations was about joy.

Even though I know there are several of you who were at the retreat,
I want to share some of those same thoughts with you here today.

I think joy is so important.
We can tend to think that being religious or pious
is only about being somber and serious and holy holy holy
in a rather fierce sort of way.

I have been part of a clergy group this fall
that has meant a great deal to me.
One of the others in that group is a woman named Joyce Hollyday.
Some of you may know Joyce--
she is active in prison ministry
and especially active in the opposition of the death penalty.
She is a UCC minister
and was the associate editor of SOJOURNERS magazine,
as well as the author of several books.

Joyce shared this story with our group one morning.
A friend of hers has been a church worker
in a Salvadoran refugee camp in Honduras.
She said that one of the refugee women
asked her why she always looked so sad.

Yvonne, the relief worker, talked about the grief she felt
over all the suffering she was seeing in the refugee camp.
She told the refugee woman that she was committed to give all of herself
to the struggle of the refugees.

The woman gently confronted Yvonne, saying,
“Only people who expect to go back to North America in a year
work the way you do.
You cannot be serious about our struggle
unless you play and celebrate
and do those things that make it possible
for you to really give a lifetime to it.”

Every time the refugees were displaced and had to build a new camp,
they immediately formed three committees:
a construction committee
an education committee
and “the committee of joy” (comite de alegria).

Celebration was as basic to the life of the refugees
as digging latrines
or teaching their children to read.

We must not forget joy.

Can you imagine how our churches might change
if we had a Committee of Joy?

Yes, that’s right--
what if we had the outreach committee,
the altar guild, the stewardship committee
and the committee of joy?

Imagine how our country might change
if the most powerful committee in congress
was not the Committee on Appropriations
or the Ways and Means Committee
but the Committee of Joy.

The Committee of Joy that makes sure we celebrate, play, laugh, rejoice.

Maybe Advent is a good time
to not only install a committee of joy in our churches
or our Congress
but to install one in our own lives.

Look in the mirror tomorrow morning
and say to yourself.
"Happy Advent!
I am now appointing you a member of your very own
Committee of Joy."

Imagine waking up each morning
and sitting down at the breakfast table with your cup of coffee
or your glass of orange juice
and making your to-do list---
...pick up milk at Harris Teeter, about an appointment
to get snow tires tires on the Honda,
...write the first draft of my sermon---
...and oh yes!
What would the Committee of Joy like to do today?
What rejoicing and silliness and laughter and play
and celebration of life
should be on our list today?

Maybe we need to reserve the FIRST place on our to do list each day
for the Committee of Joy.
Maybe we all ought to go out this afternoon
and buy a great big pink candle
and put it right in the center of our tables at home!

We must never forget how short life really is.
We must never forget to enjoy life,
to allow ourselves to be happy.

Our scriptures all sing out this message of joy today.

Isaiah speaks of the “oil of gladness”.
Our psalm tells us that we will “reap with songs of joy.”
Paul, in his letter to the Thessalonians, writes,
“Rejoice always...”
And the heart of the message in the gospel of John
is one of good news, of great joy--
John is giving testimony to the One who is coming,
the One for whom we will soon stand and sing,
“Joy to the World.”

I know it is almost a mortal sin
for an Episcopalian to sing Christmas carols
before the end of Advent,
but you know the Christmas carol,
“God rest ye merry gentlemen”?

I was shocked when I discovered the placement of the comma.
That’s right --the comma.

You see it is not God rest ye, merry gentlemen.
Instead it is God rest ye merry, gentlemen.

You could cross out the word gentlemen
and still have the true meaning of that joyful carol.

It is a perfect prayer for a holy Advent.
Especially a holy Advent 3.
God rest ye merry.

Here’s to pink candles!
Here’s to joy rides!

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