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The Gift of Joy by Rev. Christine Emmerling 12/11/2022 (text)

“The Gift of Joy” by Rev. Christine Emmerling 12/11/2022

Today I’m talking about The Gift of Joy. This is the third Sunday of Advent, and in our candle lighting, is represented by the attribute of joy. First, we relight our candles of hope and faith. Take a moment now to imagine lighting within your heart the candle representing hope, and now faith.

Now for joy, from the Bible in Luke 2: 8-11 it reads “Now there were shepherds in that region where they were staying, and they were watching their flocks at night. And behold, the angel of God came to them, and the glory of the Lord shone on them; and they were seized with a great fear. And the angel said to them, Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy, which will be to all the world. For this day is born to you in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

The following is a metaphysically interpreted for our spiritual journey: While we are in prayerful quiet meditation the observer part of our consciousness is carefully watching over our harmless and innocent thoughts. In this quiet state of mind divine ideas of a new spiritual insight is received, and at first we are guarded. Then we understand this power as Divine love, our saving grace. The Christ Consciousness has taken dominion over our worldly thoughts bringing us great joy.

We shall now light our third advent candle. With our imagination we light within our heart our pink candle representing joy. We can see our inner flame becoming stronger and brighter strengthening our Christ within.

Let us affirm: Joy so fills me that it overflows into all that I am and do.

Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23, it reads “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Joy is more than a feeling, it is an attribute of God, of the Holy Spirit within us. It is part of our very nature and being, and needs to be expressed for a healthy mind, body and soul.

We are told this in Proverbs 17:22 “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” And, in Nehemiah 8:10 “The Joy of the Lord is my strength.” Joy then, is a mighty force of our spirit that is in touch with its divine nature or Christ consciousness.

My understanding or experience of joy is when my heart is filled with love and gratitude all meshed together and bubbles forth as joy. Sometimes in tears of joy, or in spontaneous laughter. It’s a burst of energy that lifts my soul and my body feels so much lighter in a pure state of contentment.

Many people confuse feeling happy with joy, although you can have both. The difference is that happiness is dependent upon outer circumstances, usually based on getting what we want. But then if it is taken away, then our happiness is gone too.

True joy isn’t dependent upon outer circumstances or given to us by someone else, for it is cultivated within us. Joy then is something that we are, and what we are is then expressed in our world.

This is similar to the attribute of love. People are looking for love outside themself waiting for someone to give it to them. But that isn’t how it works. First, we must be what we want to receive. We cultivate love within us through our caring and giving to others. Then we attract back through other people the love that we are.

For joy we cultivate through our spiritual practices. It is when we turn our focus inward in consciousness such as through prayer and silent meditation. In doing so, we connect with this Divine presence within us that feeds Light and Love to our mind, body and soul. All darkness is dispelled, meaning negative, fearful, thoughts are replaced with just Truth, love and gratitude, and this we call joy.

A person can be locked up in a prison and still have joy. Because their joy isn’t dependent upon their circumstances. They don’t have to feel hatred or be depressed because of their circumstance. They have a choice to see and do things differently. We are all given our tribulations to grow and work through, the difference is in how we approach things. Are we creating blessings or sorrow for our self and others?

Have you ever met a truly joyful person. They’re not necessarily laughing all the time like a Santa Claus’ ho, ho, ho’s. There is a presence about them that draws people to them. I have this portrait of Jesus the Christ titled Jesus Laughing. I was so drawn to this picture because it lifted me. It reminds me of all his good works, and the man he must have been.

Jesus had to be light hearted, and have a message of joy in order to have attracted so many people to him. This is reflected in John 15:11 “I have spoken these things to you that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full.” In other words, we are not here to suffer, but to be filled with joy. Then in Psalm 118:24 we are told “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Therefore, joy is a very important attribute for all mankind to develop and live - to be joyous everyday just because we awake to a new day. Therefore everyday is an opportunity for us to be that joy.

For a young child it is so easy for them to express their joy through singing, clapping, jumping up and down and dancing around. It is natural for them. I’m reminded of my little dog, that when I returned home he would be so excited and just wiggle all over with joy. So through the years we have been conditioned to suppress our feelings including joy.

Stuffed emotions if not released will eventually cause disharmony within the body. Learning to safely release negative emotions helps to heal oneself. We can do this through Journaling, prayer and meditation. Bringing the light upon it dissipates it into nothingness. What fills in the now empty space? We fill it with love, gratitude and joy.

The following is an inspiring Christmas story: It’s just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or so.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas. Oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it – over spending, the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma. The gifts given in desperation because you couldn’t think of anything else. Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike.

The inspiration came in an unusual way. Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended, and shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church.

These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes.

As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler’s ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford.

Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn’t acknowledge defeat. Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, “I wish just one of them could have won,” he said. “They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.”

Mike loved kids, all kids, and he knew them, having coached little league football and baseball. That’s when the idea for his present came. That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me.

For each Christmas, I followed the tradition. One year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.

The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents. As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn’t end there.

You see, we lost Mike last year. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more. Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad.

The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope. Mike’s spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us. The End.

I invite you this week to think about what joy is to you.

May joy fill your spirit and be your gift to the world.

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