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Opinion :: Pastor's Blog - JOY INTO OUR LONGEST NIGHT
· 11:55am January 11th, 2013
Long, dark nights are not confined to certain times of the year governed by astronomical cycles. For us, our longest night may come from the human condition and out of the brokeness of a yet unredeemed creation. Scripture describes humanity as a people waiting in darkness.
In the book of Isaiah, God speaks through the prophet to the people of Israel whose country was conquered by the Assyrians. Their homes and cities were destroyed, and they were carried off into captivity to Babylon. Their desolation -- their grief, their angquish, and their anger are expressed in Psalm 137:
By the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!" How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a forieign land? ... Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is the one who repays you according to what you have done to us.
Sing songs of joy ... Sometimes that's just too hard to do.
How can some of us sing "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" when life is far from a pleasant dream? When the ones we love are far away from home facing danger? How can there be songs of joy when life has turned into a nightmare when children are tragically taken from us? How can there be songs of joy when there are empty chars and aching hearts?
How can some of us sing, "Deck the Halls" when we are trapped in the darkness of depression or other mental illness? When we find ourselves in places where we don't want to be because we have been robbed of our independence by aging or illness.
How can some of us sing "Joy to the World, the Lord has come," when twe live in violence and abuse. When we feel we've been forgotten and abandoned by everyone, including God?
Perhaps "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" would be more appropriate. O come, O come Emmanuel, God-with-us.
So often, we define joy as something that is like exuberant happiness, but God's word tells us that joy is much deeper, more enduring than happiness that is here one day and gone the next.
Joy is our response to God-with-us, even during our longest nights. Joy is the product of God's relationship with us. Joy is the witness of our spirits to the Spirit of God and the love it brings us in the form of comfortand consolation, salvation and restoration, peace and strength.
Strength -- the strength to weep in our sorrow, to walk through our grief, and to sit with God and be sad or lonely or even angry. The strength to doubt and cry out, "Why, God? Where were you?"
Joy is the strength to trust -- to trust that even though the forces of sin and evil may temporarily thwart God's ideal intention for us, that god's love, goodness and boundless mercy always trumphs. That even though we cannot make sense of the tragedy, the insanity, the cruelty and the injustice in this world, God's dawn of redeeming grace will out shine the darkness.
Joy is abiding. It sticks to the ribs of our souls and nourishes us. In John 16:22,24, Jesus, God-with-us, promises that his joy cannot be taken away from us. It is a gift of grace, and when we need its strength, we only have to ask for it.
The words of promise and comfort we find in passages from Isaiah, such as Isaiah 61:1-4, were given to people who were living through their own long, dark nights, but they reach out across the ages to us, to the people of Newton, Connecticut, and to all who are suffering through their own longest nights. It is the promise that God, through Christ, God-with-us, will ...
God will care for the needs of those who have been abandoned. God will give comfort to those who mourn and speak God's words of joy and hope to those who suffer abuse and violence. God will strengthn those whose backs have been doubled under the burden of worry and care. God will restore the ruins of broken hearts and shattered lives to wholeness.
In the midst of our longest nights, God will be with us. Emmanual will come. Joy will abide with us.
Brandon United Methodist Church
507 Main St., Brandon, IA
Sunday Worship: 11:15 a.m.
Garrison United Methodist Church
105 Sycamore Ave., Garrison, IA
Summer Worship: Saturdays, 5:00 p.m.
Stewart Memorial United Methodist Church
216 E. 4th St., Vinton, IA
Sunday Worship: 8:30 a.m.
Pastor's Cell: (319) 651-9408
Pastor's E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." -- Lamentations 3:21-24
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