Christmas really is about getting to joy (just ask the shepherds!). Actually, it’s not just Christmas, but all throughout our years God wants us to experience a grace that sets us free from worry about self and opens the door for our concern for others and this world that we share. All of this because it’s when we turn out from ourselves that Joy begins to enter in.
First, I invite you into a conversation about Joy that will start with our December commitments and will carry into a January conversation. To help make this happen, I am suggesting to the adult members of Beaver Valley that we read together David Brooks’s new book, The Second Mountain. Already, with my being only two chapters into the book, I can tell you that important conversations about how we are living out our lives of faith will be prompted. Our simple assignment is to prepare for several January nights where I will draw upon biblical teachings about joy and match them with occasional sections of Brooks’s book as we apply scriptural truths to the world in which we live.
But, long before we settle in to read a book and talk about Joy (the second mountain to be climbed, by the way, is the mountain of joy), we will already be inviting joy in much of what we do in December here at the church. For instance, our Senior High and Confirmation youth will, on December 18th, head out to serve others. Some will go to the St. Francis house and again put on a special meal for nearly one hundred residents. Some others will join with E.L.C.A. mission developer, Rebel Herd and go out onto the streets of Sioux Falls and pass out hot chocolate and invite the singing of Christmas carols.
Also, we as a congregation will encourage one another to give special, end of the year gifts to partnership ministries close to home. Please read the short article in this Tidings about the Church in Society’s promotion of “Advent Tree Giving.” Why not talk as a family, for example, about the idea of receiving one less gift so that one more gift can be given to those most notably in need? Why not make fudge for prisoners up at the prison?
And, of course, on Christmas Eve we will pack our congregation (5:00 p.m. or 9:00 p.m.) for the traditional Candlelight Services. In the middle of these services is the reading of Luke 2:1-20, the Christmas story. It is a story of Joy. Joy to shepherds—people who once had no hope–returning to their fields, having heard the great story of God’s love come down, full of Joy!
My prayer is that in much of what we do this December, we will hear the Good News and be carried past happiness to the joy we discover in the love and service of others.
Pastor Greg Johnson