By Rev. Heather Blais, Rector
Do you remember the last time you felt overwhelmed with joy?
Not happiness. Happiness is fleeting, and often departs as quickly as it arrives. But joy. Overwhelming joy. Joy comes from the inside out. It is light, yet steady. Not easily pushed around. It is a non anxious presence that assures us that the hopefulness and love of Christ is within us, behind us, before us, beside us, above us, below us, beneath us, and above us. Joy is with us in quiet and in danger. Joy is with us in the most grief stricken moments of our lives, as well as the most light hearted and laughter filled. For me, Joy and Christ, or rather God incarnate, are one in the same. When we are overwhelmed by joy, we are overwhelmed by Christ’s presence in our lives.
So on that night over two thousand years ago, the night of the Epiphany, when three wise men found the star they were following had stopped above the house where the Christ child slept they found they were overwhelmed with joy. They were overwhelmed by Christ’s presence in their lives. These three wise men would have seemed like odd ducks to anyone they passed by on the road to Bethlehem. They practiced an entirely different faith than the Jewish faith Jesus was born into. Yet as readers of the heavens, they saw that a child was to be born who would change all of creation. A child was born who would change the lives of people then and now. A child that overwhelms us with the joy of knowing God. Upon encountering the Christ-child, these three wise men offered the most exquisite gifts they could offer. In other words, they gave the very best of themselves to God in their offering.
Like the three wise men, when we allow ourselves to be open to the Christ-child, being our most vulnerable selves, we find ourselves ready to make God an offering, sharing the very best of ourselves with God. I believe we most easily tap into this overwhelming joy of God during the thin moments in our lives. The sacramental moments. When a child is born, and the whole family drops what they are doing to come and meet this new miracle found in birth. We gather around the naked creature and praise the beauty of it, assuring the child we will love it and care for it come hell or high water. We allow ourselves to be vulnerable in that moment to the overwhelming joy of God, and our lives are changed. The same happens when a loved one is dying, and we gather around the bedside. We hold hands, we share stories and sing songs, we laugh, we cry, we honor the way this person has touched our lives. We recognize we will not be the same without them, and yet we give them our blessing to go and be with God.
The most vulnerable moments in our lives are the ones when we find ourselves the most open to being overwhelmed by joy. They are the moments we are most open to going deeper in our relationship with God. The same can be said for communities of faith. We find ourselves overwhelmed with joy when we take risks and allow ourselves to be vulnerable together.
Think of Saint James and St. Andrew’s relationship. We took a risk last Holy Week in letting go of our separate holy week traditions to share in Holy Week services. It was a risk, right? Would folks accidentally go to the wrong church and miss the service? Would we miss one of our traditions that the other place didn’t practice at their version of the service? Yet instead, being vulnerable enhanced our Holy Week experience. We were vulnerable together as we lived through the heaviness of the gospel on Good Friday. We rejoiced together at the vigil. The same was true during fourth Advent as we took yet another vulnerable risk by holding our worship together to celebrate the ordination of women in the Episcopal Church and bless the welcome baby baskets. Instead of having two fine advent four services in our separate churches, we were overwhelmed by the joy of God when we took a risk and worshiped together. Whenever we take risks and allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we are stretched, strengthened, and we grow.
At the beginning of my sermon, I asked if you remember the last time you were overwhelmed by joy. As we prepare to head back into the world this evening and into the season of Epiphany, I wonder if this season we might prayerfully consider--how we might be overwhelmed with joy as we follow God in the coming year? Amen.
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