“Overwhelmed with Joy”
Sunday, January 2, 2011 – Epiphany Sunday
I was reading a story the other day that talked about how children are so joyous at Christmas time and how their joy seems to continue long after the presents are unwrapped.
They continue to play with their new toys;
They look forward to whatever snow might come our way;
Their excitement seems to last long after the decorations are down and packed away.
Adults, on the other hand, are relieved when all the mess is cleaned up and everything is back in the attic or the basement for another year.
We enjoyed whatever time we may have gotten off work, but it wasn’t enough and now everything goes back to “normal.”
In fact, with a new year probably come all sorts of new issues at work, new projects, and another budget year.
Winter holds little glamour for us…Who needs snow and ice?!
The joy of Christmas is short-lived and soon forgotten.
The gospel gives us a glimpse of overwhelming joy and challenges us to embrace it every day.
We have seen your star, O God, shining brightly over us and all the peoples of the earth.
Teach us to trust your light.
Help us take risks, that we might step out in faith into the unknown.
Guide us to the place where you abide,
that we may be overwhelmed with joy like the magi before us.
Guide us to the stable of your love, that we may offer you the gifts of our lives.
“When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they knelt down and paid him homage.”
The story I read last week told of a four-year-old boy who decided one day to rearrange the manger scene in his living room. Mom had carefully placed all the figures in a typical tableau designed to look pretty: organized, and balanced. The little boy moved all the figures in a tight circle around the baby Jesus.[i]
When you think about it, this little boy probably had the right idea…
The family, the shepherds, the wise men, and even the animals would want to squeeze in as close as they could get to this tiny new-born king.
It’s true for us too – when we are excited about something we want to get as close to it as we can…We don’t want to miss a thing; we want to be able to really see and appreciate.
Matthew tells us the wise men were “overwhelmed with joy” – they knelt down to worship Jesus and give him precious gifts…
If they were so overwhelmed, they probably wouldn’t line up in a perfectly balanced tableau, ready for a Christmas card photo…
They would have wanted to get as close to Jesus as they possibly could,
maybe even crowding each other a bit to get the best vantage point.
It’s interesting how the little boy in our story seems to picture the whole scene more accurately than we do…
He really seems to understand the true joy of Christmas.
Kids are like that – they experience joy so much better than we do.
They are filled with the awe and wonder of Christmas and seem to understand that we ought to be crowded around the baby Jesus.
We adults do a pretty good job of acting like children on December 25th…
At least for that day we are filled with joy and maybe even some awe and wonder.
We can get excited about the gifts and gathering with the family.
For the one day, at least, we can look past the tinsel and the packages and all the good food, to see into the manger and look with joy on the new born baby Jesus.
It’s nice to sit back and watch the kids play…
Listen to Grandpa tell another story…
Then, gather around the table and give thanks…
It’s easy at that moment to remember the reason we’re all gathered
as we share the joy of Christmas with family and friends.
But, what about today…what about Epiphany Sunday?
After the Christmas glow is gone, the presents are all unwrapped, the decorations are put back in the attic…Where is our joy, our awe, and wonder now?
What excites us now other than the after-Christmas sales and college football games?
Is the only surprise we have left attached to our impending credit card bills?
What might happen if we really made an effort to view Christmas through new eyes – a child’s eyes? Would we notice that they are still excited way after Christmas is over?
They still have new toys to play with…
They still remember the visit from Grandma and Grandpa…
They still have room for more cookies, fudge, and peanut brittle…
They are still overwhelmed with joy!
We have been given a wonderful gift and, like the Wise Men, we should be overwhelmed.
This gift is worthy of our praise and worship, not only on December 25th, and not just on Epiphany Sunday, but all year long.
Just because we are accustomed to seeing our Nativity Scene carefully balanced and laid out in neat straight lines doesn’t mean that it has to be that way…
We can see this gift through the eyes of a child and realize that we ought to be crowded around it, trying to get as close as we can to Jesus…
Even though our custom is to pack Christmas away in boxes and plastic tubs stored in the attic doesn’t mean that we can’t go back to our normal lives as people who have been renewed by this gift and overwhelmed with the joy it inspires…
We can choose to let the overwhelming joy of Christmas change us for more than just a single day in December…We can allow ourselves to be transformed every day.
We came into God’s kingdom as children who were filled with the awe and wonder and joy of the free gift of salvation that brought us here…
We came to the altar overwhelmed with the joy of knowing that someone cared enough about us to give us this precious gift of Jesus Christ…
Christmas isn’t just another ordinary holiday that comes and goes in a twenty-four hour frenzy of glitter and ribbons, football and Jell-o salad…
Christmas is an opportunity to begin a lifetime of overwhelming joy and transformation.
Our Call to Worship this morning promised that “this year will be different”…
Instead of making resolutions we won’t keep, let us all ask God to help us truly appreciate the gift we’ve been given by living a life that is radically transformed.
This year will be different, God, with your help.
Keep reminding me to be overwhelmed with joy.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…Amen
Based on “Out of the Minds of Babes”
by Rev. Gregory L. Tolle; Lectionary Tales for the Pulpit:
Series IV, Cycle A, page 29; CSS Publishing Co., Inc., Lima, OH, 2004