Joy from Prison Phillippians 4:4-7 December 12, 2021

With Ann in the hospital, I have spent much time in the car listening to 99.5 radio.  They are into playing Christmas music the entire time they are on the air. I got thinking about people like me who have someone in the hospital, or even worse, this is a season they realize how many they have known and loved will not be celebrating Christmas with them again.

So, I can relate very well to Ebenezer Scrooge of The Christmas Carol who says; “If I had my way every fool who goes around with Merry Christmas on their lips, should be boiled in their own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through their heart.”

That is yet another reason why I am happy that Advent proceeds Christmas.  It allows us to be apart from the Ho Ho and the tinny excitement of the crowds to reflect on just what does Christmas mean to a Christian.

I have entitled this sermon “Joy from Prison” to catch a significant truth from the  season.  Whether times are happy or sad; God is with us in all our circumstances.

Remember the words we read from the second lesson for today were written by Paul when he was in prison awaiting release or death.

Listen again; 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 known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

I listen to a blog entitled; “Henry Nouwen; Now and Then”.  The podcast this week was with a great Christian fundraiser.  She was asked how she got started.  She shared her husband worked for Yale University.

One day the new RC chaplain called her and after telling her a story asked for her help.  Being the Catholic Chaplain of a university was a new calling, but he knew their student center was not worthy to take care of the spiritual needs of international students.  So, he went to the board and asked for permission to build a new student center.  Out of the air he said, $5 million dollars.  the Board gave him permission to go raise that amount.  After the meeting he realized he knew nothing about fundraising.  So, he called Lori, and asked her to do the fund raising.  She immediately answered she was pregnant with her second child. He immediately responded; do not worry you can work at home.  She said “No” again.  The priest said, “You pray on this for five days and whatever your answer I will accept.” She just knew after five days of prayer she would have even more reasons to say “No!” Then came the shock of shocks after 5 days of prayer she knew God was calling her to do this.  So, she got back to the priest.  “How much do you think you will need.”  Since the meeting with the Board the chair called and suggested he go for $10 million dollars.  She said “Yes” and immediately made some discoveries.

Before you deal with a demanding situation you celebrate what is right in the world to give you energy to deal with what is wrong, and what is difficult.

Next realize if you have any joy at taking on such a huge undertaking; that joy comes from God.

Which led to the next discovery.  If in faith you are convinced it must be done; realize it also will be fun.

But there are some things you need to give up.  This project belongs to God, not to you.

Secondly, do nothing to get thanked.  Do it because it needs to be done, and it does not matter if you get any thanks.

Then came the shocks.  Doing such a project for God they were able to raise; $75 million dollars.  $25 million went into building the Center.  The next $50 million dollars was put into endowment to have money to run the place. People heaped praise on her and the priest more than they ever could have expected.

From her witness I discovered joy in life comes from God and is found in us.  If what we are doing is God’s work, it will yield fruits beyond our wildest imagination.

After worship today we will be voting on a budget and electing members of Council.  Whatever budget we set do not make that your goal in giving.  Give out of thanksgiving to God after at least 5 days praying.

Also whatever we are facing either as a church or individuals don’t worry about it.  Give it to God and trust God will deal with it in God’s own way, and in God’s own time.

Also, you will be given two sheets of paper.  On one write three things we did this year as a parish that has pleased God.  Be as specific as possible.  On the second sheet ask yourself what are the three things God would have us do in 2022?

In January we will have a retreat to discover what is God saying to us through each other.

As we proceed with the challenges of living today let’s make our focus on whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable. If there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things.

I was given a button that has really spoke to me this last week. “God’s Got This”.

Whatever we face, since Christ has come and meets us at the communion table, “God’s Got This.”  And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.