Seasoned With Joy
SEASONED WITH JOY
Sermon By Terry Siverd /December 11, / Cortland Church of Christ - - www.cortlandcoc.org
In his journal, Ecclesiastes (insightful albeit sometimes cynical), King Solomon writes (Eccl.3:1) - -
There is a time for everything, and everything on earth has its special season (NCV) … or to everything there is a season (KJV).
Solomon's vision was not specifically tied to the annual changes we associate with Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.
The stroke of his brush is broader still, as he address variations of life in general. Using fourteen couplets, he refers to:
birth & death; planting & weeding; conflict & healing; demolition & construction; crying & laughing;
mourning & dancing; dispersing & gathering; embracing & shunning; searching & surrendering;
keeping & discarding; tearing & sewing; silence & speech; loving & hating; and war & peace.
Living in an area dotted with many farms it's only reasonable that the autumns of our forebears were focused on harvesting & family. We spoke recently about our own need to nurture a sense of pervasive gratitude. And now,
as we move into December with Christmas rapidly approaching, we find ourselves thinking about giving & joy.
While the precise date of Jesus' birth may be debatable, we would be amiss to not recognize the importance of the
birth of Jesus and to rejoice in it: it is worthy of celebration on a year-round basis although the natural flow of our human make-up is to “seasonalize” key events. For example, most of us have grown up in households where
our parents loved us year round, but most of us also enjoyed having our birthday celebrated in a special way.
When friends discover that my birthday is December 26th, they tend to sympathize with me thinking that I might have gotten cheated due to it being the day after Christmas. Not so! I don't have a single memory of ever feeling neglected.
This is a season when our minds and hearts are flooded with gladness and the rich blessings that accompany gift-giving.
Glad tidings fill the air as we blend our voices with heav'n and nature in singing of a great JOY TO THE WORLD.
In the fullness of time God the Father orchestrated the sending of His only begotten Son to become our Savior.
The condescending of God the Son to be born of a woman and to immerse Himself into the world of humanity
paved the way for this God-given babe in a manger to begin the work of atonement. Jesus quickly grew into
manhood, becoming like us in all things that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things
pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people (Heb.2:17). This infant born in Bethlehem
of Judea became Jesus of Nazareth who came to bear our sins in His body on the cross (1Pet.2:24).
God the Father made this remarkable sacrifice on our behalf, not begrudgingly but willingly and happily.
If, after our time on earth, we are blessed to step into eternity to be greeted by our heavenly Father, we will surely
bow before Him expressing our sincerest gratitude: “Thank You Father, for sending Your Son to be our Savior!”
To which our Father will smile widely and say to us, “It was My pleasure”. Col.1:19 states - -
For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fulness to dwell in Him, and through Him
to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of the cross.
This is a season that proclaims peace on earth and goodwill to all men.
The psalms are replete with CALLS FOR US TO REJOICE.
Ps.30:11/Thou has turned for me my mourning into dancing; Thou hast loosed my sackcloth andgirded me with gladness …... Ps.32:11/ Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones, And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart …...
Our best response to God is in Ps.104:34/ Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; As for me, I shall be glad in the Lord.
What King Solomon wrote long ago in his now-famous book ought to be recognized by each and all of us - -
God keeps (us) occupied with the gladness of (our) heart.
What we emphasized a couple of Sundays ago regarding gratitude also applies to gladness: it ought to be pervasive.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, REJOICE (Philp.4:4).
My wife and I went to the theater recently to see the movie, “I Heard The Bells”.
It's a great film from Sight & Sound who have brought superb theatrical productions like “Noah” and “Joseph”.
It's a story set in Massachusetts around 1860, near the outbreak of our nation's Civil War.
It peers into the life of one of our nation's greatest poets, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
In July of 1861 Henry's wife dies unexpectedly, crushing him. Longfellow cries out - -
“If God gave me the voice of a poet, then why did He take my poetry from me? I will never write again!”
And for a while he wrote nothing. His pen was silent.
The movie depicted a man broken by life's tragedies, who had lost hope.
Finally he awakens from his heartache and writes the beloved poem which later became a song.
If you get the opportunity to see this movie, please do so!
I want to interject at this point a sidebar to this movie, which highlights some of the challenges to a pervasive joy.
When we arrived the foyer was crowded. There was no ticket booth per say, just an automated kiosk.
It brought confusion and frustration - - the movie title wasn't even displayed on the marquee.
The only workers at the theater were manning the money-making concessions.
I was chagrined as I stood quietly and listened to the negative chatter while silently struggling with grit in my gizzard.
It was rather ironic that the grumbling was originating primarily from seasoned “believers”
I suspect that a large segment of the attendees derived from a few larger churches who had been given a heads up about the movie. The cluster group that we found ourselves harnessed with found our way into theater #1 where we sat awaiting the movie's start. Our friend Stacy soon discovered that based on the time, we were all in the wrong theater (the movie we wanted was in theater #5). After we trudged like lost sheep to the new venue the movie had already started. In came more believers, searching in the dark for their pre-assigned seats and determined to get them.
A lady with a flashlight demanded that a handful of people in one row give up their seats so that they would have theirs.
All in all it was a rather embarrassing pre-Christmas kick-off, casting a shadow on the joy of the season.
On this particular evening the church-goers didn't shine very brightly.
For the most part I think the intention of the participants (in this story and other episodes) is to sing and make melody,
but in actuality, sometimes (perhaps more often that we care to admit) we fall flat and become quite unattractive.
So here I stand this morning imploring us to get our act together! One might be inclined to think that a
sermon exhorting the church to be filled with joy and gladness would be tantamount to “preaching to the choir”.
What I have noticed over the course of many years of preaching is that even the choir can sometimes sing “off key”.
Somewhere in the movie was a line that spoke about how the bells were (metaphorically) the voice of the church.
The next day, I'm ashamed to say, I found myself grumbling at the seating delay we experienced at a local restaurant.
And then a few days after that I complained about a late start to the nurses overseeing my wife's scope test.
In connection with the birth of John the baptizer (whose life intertwined with the life of Jesus), Lk.1:42 says,
you will have joy and gladness and many will rejoice at his birth.
If you will permit me to be very frank, I want to conclude by saying kindly but firmly to all of us (myself foremost):
In this season of joy and gladness when you mingle with others if you choose to go around being grumpy, it might be better to just stay home. If you do venture out to see a movie or shop or dine out or whatever you might opt to do,
if you should find yourself behaving like a grinch or a scrooge, please don't let others know that you are a Christian.
I say this with a tinge of sarcasm and a smile because we all know that God wants us to be “light” (Mt.5:14 and Eph.5:8).
Let me wrap up this sermonic package with some timely words from the apostle Paul recorded in Col.4:5-6 - -
Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always
be with grace, seasoned as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.