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Joy - Advent 2022

The difference between happiness and joy is happiness depends on what's happening and joy is a choice.

Corby Stephens
Corby Stephens
12 min read
Joy - Advent 2022
Photo by Vladislav Babienko / Unsplash

Table of Contents

The following text is the raw, unedited transcript from a sermon given on Nov. 27, 2022. You can also listen to the audio. Better yet, subscribe to the podcast! :-)

Well, it is the third Sunday of Advent. And the theme for today is joy. What is the difference between joy and happiness? It seems like a lot of popular Christianity today wants us, it encourages us to be happy all the time. And if you're not happy all the time, something is wrong with you, Something's wrong with your faith, Something's wrong with your spirits. But it's, you're just, you're doing it wrong, you're not following Jesus, right? Because you're not happy. I call bologna sausage on that. That is wrong.

The difference between happiness and joy is happiness depends on what's happening and joy is a choice.

And sometimes it's a really hard choice. Now, some people are naturally joyful. Some people have a natural Effervescence have just, they're just happy. And if you're one of those people, God bless you, that is a gift. My my personal thermostat is normally set at melancholy. That's just kind of where I live and I can be joyful, I can swing pretty far the other way. But some people there were just set differently and you know what, that's a good thing because we're the body of christ because Paul tells us to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice.

If we were all the same one emotional temperature, that would be awful. Even if we were all happy all the time, it would be like, yeah, something's wrong with these people. They don't live in reality. So, Joy is a choice. When we looked at our passages today, there was a lot of sort of prophetic and reference to the profits and talking about john the baptist and, and the reading from Isaiah. What we're reading about is I think two fold since since Advent is really is talking about the first and the second coming of Jesus.

Redemption then restoration. Symmetry of creation and consumation.

What we're talking about is, both redemption, but also restoration. When Jesus came the first time, he redeemed us, he bought us with his own blood when he comes back, the second time, he's going to restore all things. And I find that to be an interesting flip to creation. Creation is made perfect God over the seven days makes everything and he calls it good. Then the fall happens and Adam and Adam and Eve fall, That's, that's a whole, that's one of my favorite chapters to talk about.

Not because it's kind of the same old thing, but because I have a slightly different spin where God is not a big angry god. He's actually a big, loving caring god who wants to protect Adam and Eve, not punish them. Because they're already punished, right? Sin has consequences. Our world is the way it is because of sin because of our sin. That after the after Adam and Eve's in suddenly there are thorns and thistles, I don't like thorns, I have allergies. Anyway, so I'm not a big flower guy, but thorns imagine a world without thorns.

Consequently after a few several generations, the flood comes, we are seeing a planet that is post flood now. I don't know about you, but I think our world's pretty beautiful. I did not. I went to the universe, I grew up down to Vancouver and I went to the University of Washington. So seeing the olympic mountain range was new for me. I didn't even know that you could see the olympics from here. There was a clear Sunday morning a couple of Sundays ago when we drove up for church and I was like, you can see that they're beautiful mountains.

From Portland, there's a couple of spots that I on the I call them five mountain days because you can see five volcanic peaks from certain spots in Portland. You can see right near ST helens, Adams Hood and Jefferson on a clear day in, in, in Oregon. We live in a beautiful place, but this is a fallen place. This is the world after it got wrecked by a flood. So you have creation. And then you have fall when Jesus comes the first time he redeems from the fall when he comes the second time he restores creation.

Joy is based on what God has done, and what He is going to do, often times in order to get you through what’s happening now.

I think that's just, that's just a beautiful pattern to see in scripture. And if joy is a choice, then it is a choice two. The ability to be joyful comes from those two things from remembering and believing in those two things. Redemption in the past and restoration in the future. It's based on what God has done and what he's going to do oftentimes in order to get you and I through what's happening now because you don't need joy when you're happy, do you? You need joy when you're bumped? You need joy when your back hurts. You need joy when you have a cold, you need joy when when your kid's has cancer, you need joy when you are suddenly unemployed, you need joy when stuff is happening.

Is it a sin to be sad?

So is it a sin to be sad? No. Is it a sin to be anxious? No. Although some people teach that it is is it a sin to be depressed? No. Is it a sin to be weak? No. Because in our in our scriptures today that isn't that what God does is he takes those who are sad and and helps them to be happy to be joyful.

He takes the anxious and and brings them to a place of strength along with those who are weak. I mean it's even though Paul tells us to be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication make our requests known to God. The point is it's okay to be anxious. Just don't live in anxiety. It's okay to be sad. Just don't live in sadness forever. It's okay to be weak but not forever. And if I could be completely transparent with you guys. My doctor just added a second antidepressant for me, two happy pills.

And it's because well, okay, too many thoughts, small mouth, big brain, slow down. Because there is a place for that kind of solution. It's not the only solution, but there is a place for that kind of solution. So if anybody has ever shamed you for needing medication for mental health, just tell them to hush and pray take your pill and pray take your pill and put yourself around people who are joyful and learn from them. It'll be annoying at first trust me. But take the time and learn from them what it means to be joyful because it really is sometimes as a matter of brain wiring. In the Psalms, I forget where it is, it says, I think I had it sorry, memorized in the old King James as a man thinketh in his heart.

So is he. Now, sadly there are those who take that of the name it and claim it. Prosperity Gospel persuasion and say if I think it's going to come into being like, that's not the point. If you're, if you're always in a mental funk, that's what comes out. But if you train your brain and train your heart and spend time in God's word and spend time with other believers who are in a good place, that wiring changes so that you aren't always in that funk as you think.

So you are in the Lord, right? The messiah was referred to as a man of sorrows. I think if Jesus can be sad, that's okay for us to be sad. There is a particular pastor who one of his catchphrases is D. B. G. Don't be grumpy. I just one of the lay hands on him in Jesus name rapidly, and forcefully when he would say that he was like God's not grumpy so we shouldn't be grumpy. And I just thought what are you saying to people who are hurting right now?

I think, I don't know that you can assign one emotion to God at any one moment because he's God and he's bigger than all of this. I think you can feel everything at once. While we can't, when we feel everything at once they put us in a padded room. But when God can be grumpy and happy, I think when God looks at how humanity treats humanity, he gets angry, he gets grumpy or when he sees humanity treating humanity well. I think he is pleased at that.

He can feel all of those things at once. When Paul tells the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord always, that's often misused ceases to be happy all the time. No, he's writing to extremely persecuted christians in Philippi who need to be reminded to rejoice in the Lord don't live in your circumstances don't live in the persecution, Jesus promised us persecution, you know that that's not really the environment to just not be grumpy when you're gonna be experiencing persecution, that's going to be sad and frustrating and difficult, but there is space to rejoice in the Lord, even in that.

Joy in what the Lord has done and is doing, gets our eyes off of ourselves off of our circumstances and it can fuel our faith and bring us hope through prayer.

I'm gonna say that again, joy in what the Lord has done and is going to do, remember reconciliation or redemption and restoration gets our eyes off of ourselves off of our circumstances and that can fuel our faith and fuel our hope in prayer. I mean, has anybody else ever felt helpless in prayer? But I mean, you know, you can go weird, super theological level. God already knows what I need. Why am I saying it? Because it's not for him, it's for me, me to humble myself and go to him and say God, I need we humans don't like to say I need, we like to be very self sufficient.

God, you're good and you, you're okay there, I'm okay over here. And that's not that God doesn't want that distance. He wants a dependency, a relationship with him. He wants us to come to him, but he also wants to work in us and through us in the lives of others. It's, it's a, it's a two way relationship. So when our circumstances are not great choosing joy to get our eyes on what God has done and is going to do actually gives us strength. When we read James earlier, James is kind of to the point he, I think you could sum up James by saying make good choices.

I tried to tell my kids that often make good choices where you're gonna go, what are you gonna do and make good choices? Come here James, let you go, bibles are great, but the paper is really thin sometimes. Be patient therefore brothers until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth. Being patient about it until it receives the early and late rains. You also be patient, establish your hearts for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

That's something we do. We establish our hearts with the Lord's help following, Jesus is a lot more of an active thing than I think we have come to realize and I'm sorry if this feels very tangent, tangential and A. D. D. That my second pill is also for A. D. D. So that's why I'm taking. But we talk about things like the fruit of the spirit and fruit, fruit grows on trees like the farmer, your fruit is a natural product of the tree. An apple tree should grow apples.

If an apple tree doesn't grow apples, there's something weird there. And when we're talking about the fruit of the spirit, sometimes it's taught like it's up to us to make that fruit happen as if we're like a tree with branches and we're gonna be like, you know, love patience, peace joy, but they're just gonna pop out of, we work really hard to make it happen. It's like, well those are natural, those are those things just come as we are in the light of the sun and watered by the word like a good tree, like a healthy tree is, but there are plenty of other things that we are told to develop like self control, self control.

That's something we get to to develop. And and and our, our brother James here is telling us to establish ourselves for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Don't grumble against one another. That's a choice. And as an example of suffering and patients brothers take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Now, I think we would all agree that the prophets were very committed to God, but how wonderful was their lives? Not at all. Right, Jeremiah was the weeping prophet. It said that Isaiah was cut into john, the baptist loses his head you for being a profit for following God. Right.

Don't be grumpy again. I'm sorry, I gotta let that go. One of these days when I die, I'll let that go. But James tells us to make good choices and one of those choices is joy and and here's, here's why I'm sort of trying to hit on that, it's have you ever noticed that God doesn't take his people out of bad circumstances, but rather he takes them through them. I kind of wish it wasn't that way God make this go away. His answer to that is pretty much always.

No, but I will take you through this. It's the difference between in the in the new testament. Sometimes you'll see the word testing and sometimes you'll see the word tempting or some version thereof. And oftentimes they're the same words just translated differently. And it got me thinking what's the difference between being tested and being tempted? Because it says God never tempts us? But God certainly does test us. Like he tested Abraham in Genesis 22. When God is testing us, the motivation behind the testing is God wants us to succeed.

He wants us to pass the test right? A temptation. The devil does not want us to succeed. He wants us to fail the test. This is why the same situation. One scenario can be both simultaneously testing from God and tempting from the devil. So when a person is in that situation and they start casting out satan and you get out of here with your temptation, What if one chose to see it as God? Are you testing me? Are you trying to strengthen me? Are you trying to refine me and you want me to succeed through this, I think that's what it is, which is again a choice.

And knowing God's word and he probably the most famous temptation is that of Jesus himself. 40 days in the wilderness, fasting, satan himself coming to Jesus and again, God is testing, Jesus, satan is tempting, Jesus turn these stones into bread like well man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, Jesus answers temptation. He experiences testing by citing God's word, which means you gotta get it in there in order for it to come out, which is why spending time personally, apart from church, your own time in God's word is so, so valuable, not in there, you can't call it back.

And as you read the whole thing cover to cover, I have come to really love the daily Office. Am I perfect at it? Nope. Sometimes I'll hit morning, sometimes I'll hit evening, sometimes I'll hit neither. Sometimes I'll hit both. But when you do the daily Office, you do go through the entire bible and in fact I even try to do that, I'll change translations at the end of the year because I want to read another wording, another way of thinking about what is being given to me.

But as you spend time in God's word as you take in his redemption and the coming restoration again, you have fuel to make the choice for joy, you gotta get it in there. So Jesus came once to redeem He is coming again to restore. These are what we are celebrating in the in the liturgy and the Eucharist, the redemption and the restoration and these are tremendous sources for joy. So as we come, as we transition in a few moments from our time and the word to our time at the table have joy in your thoughts, Jesus, how do I, how do I come up here and experience joy in these elements?

How do I go out there at the end of the service and experience and and choose joy in what's happening in the world? Because of that, like faith that is a muscle you have to exercise. So obviously I love working out. You can laugh. It's a fat joke, it's about me. It's okay. This is a very important workout again. These are tremendous sources of strength for joy. So let's let's get ready to dig into those in in just a moment. Let's pray.

Lord, thank you for your word as always, thank you that you were not just a real person historically, but you were a real person in the sense of just being real, honest, genuine.You laughed, you cried, you sweat drops of blood when you were approaching the crucifixion. You are the fulfillment of all the promises for us. You're the filament fulfillment of past promises. But you are also going to be the fulfillment of promises that are yet future. Help us to be individuals. Help us to be parents, help us to be spouses, that are people of the word and consequently people have the who have the ability to choose joy despite what's happening. Um, We remember your death, we also remember your resurrection and we look forward to your coming again to restore all things in Jesus name we pray. Amen.



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