The other day as I was accomplishing a household chore, I found myself feeling lighthearted and singing a silly but old favorite tune:
O you can’t get to heaven, on roller skates
No you can’t get to heaven, on roller skates!
No, you can’t get to heaven on roller skates,
You’ll roll right past those Pearly Gates
All my sins are washed away, I’ve been redeemed!
I don’t know about you, but I haven’t found it easy to be lighthearted lately. The almost two years of pandemic have been an enormous, often unconscious weight upon us that has affected all parts of life and caused such grief at loss of health and life. Additionally, with all too much regularity we hear of senseless random acts of violence whether a shooting in Michigan, the Waukesha Parade Tragedy, images of racial injustice, desperate souls trying to escape dire situations through risky mass migration, hunger, homelessness, devastating climactic events and so much more. We witness daily reminders of the fragile nature of human life and “man’s humanity to man.” What is there to be lighthearted about?
My answer comes from the third Sunday of Advent’s lectionary reading. In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we read from chapter 4:4-7:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
People often remark how I seem so happy in my Facebook selfies and other pictures. Let me confess that my heart is often heavy these days and at times the disruptions of violence, injustice and human suffering feel too much to bear. The challenges that face the Church of Jesus Christ and the United Methodist Church are an additional burden of responsibility that I carry each day. Yet, I hear the advent invitation to “Rejoice in the Lord.” The God invitation is to hold compassion for the world and hope in God together. To allow ourselves to be despondent because of the suffering all around us does not honor God. Rather, it demonstrates that our trust is really in ourselves alone to end or atone for the troubles of the world. This is too much confession, I apologize! When I am downcast, sad and brokenhearted because I can’t fix the troubles of the world, this passage from Lamentations 3:21-23 comes to mind. At the time of the destruction of Jerusalem and the forced exile and slavery of his people the writer proclaims.
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning,
Great is Your faithfulness
Jesus said that in this world we will have trouble, “but fear not, I have overcome the world.” This advent as we acknowledge reality, let us celebrate our redeemer! Let us put our hope in Jesus the Messiah. Remember the Lord is near. We are not in this alone. We are together as the family of God, the Church of Jesus Christ. Therefore, let us rejoice in the Lord always! Again I say, rejoice!
Gracious God, our hearts are often troubled by world events, economic events and family and personal situations that we can’t control. Thank you for being with us in the messiness of life. Comfort us and help us to rejoice once more in the hope we have in you, through Jesus our Messiah. Amen.