Sorrow & Joy


Biblical Text: JOhn 16:12-22
Full Sermon Draft

This is a tough passage to preach on. In part because Jesus just repeats himself. He knows he has things to say, but it is like the only language he has is modern English. Until Pentecost, or until after the little while, none of it will really make sense to Aramaic Peter. For me it forces a meditation on sorrow and joy and the appropriate time we can expect them. When Jesus uses ‘a little while’ the immediate meaning is clear to us – after the Supper until Easter Morning. But Jesus connects ‘a little while’ to the eschatological – the time between the advents. For a little while we lament, and that little while is now. But we also have the same joy that cannot be taken away as those disciples – He’s risen. What we do not yet have is our completion, our final sanctification.

So, now, we share in the cross, or we share in nothing. We also share in the resurrection, while we groan for our new birth as true humans.

Recording notes: 1. The recording chip fell out of my suit pocket, so this is a re-recording. 2. The hymn references in the sermon is LSB 756 Why Should Cross and Trial Grieve Me. I’m sorry I lost the recording because this is one of those deep hymns. Gerhardt does a better job of the sermon than I do. The tune it is paired with I find touching as well. Here is another recording of it.

All the Stockings are hung by the Chimney with care….

Well the sermons are done, the programs are practiced, the booklets being printed. As the sticky post above says, everyone is invited to come and worship. Its good for your soul, even if you don’t know what that word means. At Christmas you find amazing things where you don’t think they belong.

There are several people my thoughts and prayers stray toward at this moment. Most of those prayers are for a measure of peace to be granted. Mixed in with those have been a couple of songs in my “Christmas Album” this year. (Here is the Album, by the Lower Lights – it really is gorgeous) In going through my brothers things I found a huge collection of Christmas albums. I converted most of them to MP3. It reminded me of just how big a softie he could be. Every year he would buy a few more, but they were never the big ones. Not a Mariah Carey to be found. He found singers instead of pop stars; instrumentalists and choirs instead of soloists. So I’ve kinda inherited the tradition. I’m sure sometime in early December to pick up a Christmas album. It doesn’t take but a couple of days of WARM 101.3 “Frosty Fest” after Thanksgiving to get my fill of secular tunes. (If I hear Rudolf or this years off-beat tale of grandma being run over again I’ll beat something.) To hear the sacred takes MP3s it seems.

One of the Songs is I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. Its taken from a Longfellow poem. And the third stanza seems very “unchristmas-y”.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Sorry for the downer, but I bring that up for two reasons. First, unlike this plastic season of manic Christmas we seem to get foisted with, the older Christmas was preceded by Advent and had the strength within it to contemplate such things. Look at all the good older Carols and Hymns of Christmas. Look past the first verse into verse 2 and 3. Take What Child is This – “Nails, Spear shall pierce him through, the cross be borne for me, for you”. Take We Three Kings – “Myrrh is mine, is bitter perfume, breathes a life of gathering gloom, sorrowing, sighing, breathing, dying, sealed in a stone cold tomb”. Take Once in Royal David’s City – “For He is our childhood’s pattern, Day by day like us He grew; He was little, weak and helpless, Tears and smiles like us He knew, And He feels for all our sadness, And He shares in all our gladness.” Longfellow talked of all the bells of Christendom. The days of Christendom as Longfellow knew it are over, but that culture knew things that we forgot – or never bring to mind, until forced to.

That brings up the second song on this years album – Stars of Glory. The performance seems designed to break your heart just at the time the soprano’s folk-y voice breaks. The hymn must be a Roman Catholic favorite as it is older. I was not aware of it to my impoverishment. But verse one strikes just the right vein…

Stars of glory, shine more brightly,
Purer be the moon-light’s beam,
Glide ye hours and moments lightly,
Swiftly down times deepening stream,
Bring the hour that banished sadness,
Brought redemption down to earth,
When the shepherds heard with gladness
Tidings of a Saviour’s birth.

The hours and moments gather. Time’s stream deepens. Even in sadness all is not lost. It is brought to fulfillment. The angel’s tidings of peace and joy still ring, even though they are mocked from all corners, because the LORD upholds them. The LORD chose to be with all the moments: Gladness and sadness. Cross and manger; tomb and throne.

I have no interest in a plastic Christmas. But the LORD who can inspire such songs…be near me Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay.