Joy breaking in

Hear a short recap of the Sunday service:

Watch the 11 AM Celebration of the Holy Eucharist

Watch the 6 PM Community Eucharist

Though Rev. Ousley offered the sermon today (you can see the full version in the videos of 11AM or 6PM, Father Beddingfield’s thoughts follow here: 

It’s the Third Sunday of Advent and Joy is a theme that runs throughout the worship, prayers, and music of the church. 

In today’s first scripture reading, from Isaiah 61, the prophet brings joy to a people in exile who are longing to go home. “He has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,” Isaiah says. “To bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; . . . to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.” A joyful message, indeed.

The psalm of the day can be replaced with the Song of Mary, Magnificat, which is what we have done at Holy Trinity. Mary is very much in mind as the church has just celebrated the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on December 8, and then on December 12, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mary’s particular revelation to the Americas. The Song of Mary, Magnificat, sings of God’s promise and power to do justice, to make things right, to lift up the poor and lowly, and the fill the hungry with good things.

The Gospel continues the theme of joy, but here, the joy goes further and is transformed into light. John the Baptist explains that his job is a little like Mary’s: to magnify, to point to the light, to testify to the light, and to bear witness.

And so, today, with the prophets, with Mary, and with John the Baptist, we too are invited to bear witness to the love of God in Jesus Christ, and to share the joy of his good news.  But that’s not always easy, is it?

In Sunday’s sermon, the Rev. Doug Ousley, honorary assistant at Holy Trinity, talked about how it’s hard to find joy or comfort when we’re grieving, or when we’re mourning loss. But he suggested a tactic which he calls Constructive Mourning–it’s not a magic cure, but it can be, at times, a way forward, a way out of feeling stuck.

The first step is to acknowledge the loss, be honest about the grief. Don’t just brush it off, but really name it and sit with it.

The second step is to ask yourself where it fits in order of importance in your world. Is it something that you’ve lost, but are ready to leave behind, or is it something larger, that in beyond you.

Third, is to take some sort of action. You might do a particular ritual, or engage in new behavior, like getting into social media, calling someone, or writing a letter. Or you might pray, which is active, and it’s free.

Fourth, is to allow God to take over. Prayer begins this process, but it can also happen through memory, as we re-member, bring into the presence what has happened in the past, God can take the memory and make something of it. The Holy Eucharist is a memorial, a re-membering, in which God brings forward what was long ago, but transforms the past through memory into a blessing for today.

Even if the joy feels a little faint, breaking into our world this season, there is hope. There is life ahead. And there is even more joy to come.

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus, light of the world, John the Baptist told the people to prepare, for you were very near. As Christmas grows closer day by day, help us to be ready to welcome you now. Amen.

About John F. Beddingfield

Rector of The Church of the Holy Trinity (Episcopal) in New York City on East 88th Street between 1st Ave and 2nd Ave.
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