“A Christmas Story”: Joy!

During our Journey through Advent, we’ve been using the film, “A Christmas Story” to launch messages of hope, peace, and today we’ll focus on joy.

“A Christmas Story”, follows 9-year-old Ralphie Parker and his quest to get a Red Ryder 200-shot carbine action air rifle for Christmas. When he expresses this desire he is continually met with the mantra, “you’ll shoot your eye out”.

In today’s clip, we’ll see what happens on Christmas morning, just after the mass chaos of opening the huge pile of presents.

Ralphie receives his Red Ryder! In the clip, I’m not sure who is more excited and joy-filled, Ralphie or his father?

Many of us have experienced the magic of Christmas joy. What was your equivalent of the Red Ryder?

What brings you joy?
Where do you experience joy?
Who brings you joy?

God’s desire is that we would experience joy. When God speaks of joy, it’s not about the giving and receiving of material goods. God’s joy is an indescribable joy that exceeds the momentary joys that come with Red Ryder’s, basketballs, and drum sets. God’s joy reminds us that, no matter how hard things might get in our lives, this is not the end of the story. As the psalmist writes in Psalm 30:5, “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (NRSV) Even in the midst of our biggest trials, we can experience moments of joy…especially when we look to Christ.

God’s desire is that we would embrace joy, experience joy, dwell in joy and then spread joy!

Therefore, we should invest our time and energy in those things, places, and people that bring us joy. If writing, hiking, painting, gardening, fishing, or playing cards brings you joy, do those things! If being in nature or at home or at a coffee shop or church or wherever brings you joy, spend time in those places. If your spouse, family, friends, fellow church folks bring you joy, by all means, spend time with those people. Making time to experience joy doing those things we love, in the places we love, with the people we love is a good and noble thing! We shouldn’t feel guilty for pursuing and experiencing joy!

God’s desire is that we would find joy in our relationships! God wants us to experience joy in our marriages, in our families, in our friendships. If you are not experiencing joy in your relationships, it’s time to start doing some serious work of reconciling those relationships in order that they might bring you joy. Let’s be honest, some relationships have been so intensely damaged that while forgiveness is necessary and possible, reconciliation and moving forward in the relationship may not be healthy. Sometimes, there are relationships that need to end in order for us to experience God’s joy! So, if you have relationships that do not produce joy, do the work of either figuring out how to bring joy into the relationship or move on!

In life we experience joy stealers. You know what I mean? There are people we encounter who seem to have the gift of sucking the joy right out of the room. Joy stealers have an amazing capacity to radically transform the atmosphere and energy of any gathering. Who are your joy stealers? And, if we’re going to be honest, we need to ask ourselves if we have been guilty of being joy stealers? Are we sharing or stealing joy?

Now, if you find joy in things that would go against the word of God, well, you might think twice. For example, if you find joy going to the gentlemen’s club, you should find a new way to experience joy. If you find joy getting together with your girlfriends to gossip, you need to find a new way to experience joy. If you find joy overindulging in food, beverages, or legal or not-so-legal stimulants, you need to find a new way to experience joy. If you find joy being a negative Nancy or a grumpy Gus, you need to find a new way to experience joy. If you find joy in stealing others joy, you need to find a new way to experience joy.

We should experience joy and then we should spread joy! None of this ho-hum, taking ourselves too seriously all the time stuff! That’s worn out, tired, old and void of joy! Let’s demonstrate our gratitude for God through our joy!

Too often, our joy is hijacked by our own negativity. We focus on what we don’t have, what we’ve lost, and what we can’t do. Listen folks, let’s focus on what we have and what we can do! Let’s choose joy!
God brings us joy, peace and hope in order that we might share and spread joy, peace and hope.

John 10:10 reminds us that Jesus came that we might have the full, abundant life. If we are experiencing the abundant life Jesus desires, the result will be joy!

C.S. Lewis wrote, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” In other words, when we experience joy, we are experiencing a taste of heaven here on earth! When we spread joy, we are demonstrating a glimpse of heaven on earth. Joy is the Lord’s Prayer fleshed out! We pray “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Moments of joy are moments of the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

Karl Barth wrote, “Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.” In other words, if we are truly grateful, we should be able to find, express, and experience joy! If we aren’t thankful, if we aren’t grateful, we might not fully understand joy.

When we come to church, it should be a joy-filled experience. When we leave the church, we should be filled with joy…and not just because we’re glad the pastor is finally finished preaching or because we are particularly pleased with today’s lunch options. We should be filled with joy because we have gathered together with the family of God to lift our hearts together in praise! When we gather together for worship, it’s practice for the coming kingdom…it should be a joy-filled time of glorifying and praising God!

As a result, we should be leaving this place as bearers of joy…as agents of joy! Our community should be a more joy-filled place because of our witness. People should be able to know that we are with Team Jesus because of our joy. Wouldn’t it be amazing if the people of Centerville knew the people of the United Methodist church as those folks who are overflowing with joy?

How will you experience, dwell in, and share joy today and in the days to come?