First Parish Church
United Church of Christ, Yarmouth, Maine
Rev. Kate Dalton
December 15, 2019
I have an announcement.
Evelyn Carole Kellerman, was born Nov. 11 in Brunswick. This is good news you!
Go and see her and tell everyone you know about her.
What’s that – you have no idea who Evelyn Carole Kellerman is?
Well, I’m telling you her birth is good news. Go visit her. You’ll find her wrapped in a pink blanket. And don’t forget to tell everyone you know.
Why are you still here?
The shepherds responded when they got their birth announcement – why aren’t you going?
You do remember the shepherds and the birth announcement we just read – right? Here let me read it to you again.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 A ghost appeared to them, blinding them with light, and they were terrified. 10 But the ghost said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a baby has been born to you.12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of ghosts appeared 14 “Yee hah” 15 When the ghosts had left them, the shepherds said to one another, “What the heck just happened! Did our wine go bad? 16 So they hurried off and found new wine and hoped they would never see such a thing again.
You do know that story, don’t you? What’s that? I didn’t get it right? What do you mean?
The shepherds saw what? Angels? How do you know that? They could have been ghosts you know? And the Angels said that the baby was the messiah?
I mean I can understand saying a baby is special – but a messiah, don’t you think they are going a little far? And – the shepherds listened to them? That’s ridiculous!
Why would they do such a thing? Why would they traipse all over Bethlehem with sheep in tow looking for some mysterious baby – when they didn’t even know the family?
Of course, we don’t know exactly what happened when Jesus was born, but the shepherds have something to teach us about how we approach life. The shepherds are open to possibility. Not only that – they err on the side of good news.
My retelling of the shepherds story seems silly – but the point is that we make decisions all of the time about information we receive. Is it good information or bad information? Will we allow ourselves to be changed by the information or will we shut it out? Will we try to look for joy in what we know or will we focus only on the scary parts or the unknown? Our understanding of any situation is based on the decisions we make and where we focus our energy.
When Jesus was born, the Jews were living in a broken place under oppressive Roman rule. We may not be living under an oppressive government, but the world remains a broken place. And, we can still experience joy. Joy asserts that more is possible. Joy insists that the brokenness does not win. Because even in the midst of brokenness we can find and experience joy – if we are looking. If we open ourselves to the possibility of joy.
Occasionally I will get feedback that there should be no laughing in church. I disagree. When I hear people laughing in church, I rejoice that they are connecting with joy – because joy is a powerful tool that we have been given by God that insists no matter what happens we still have control over our spirits. And when our spirits can still identify joy – we cannot be defeated.
In case you have a hard time locating joy, I wanted to share some suggestions from a blog post written by Eric Barker entitled, “This is How to Find Joy: 4 Secrets to the Good life.”1
Here’s how to find joy:
Those things that make you happy? Do them: Take a break from “new.” Listen to the music that has always made you happy. Spend time with the people who have always made you happy.
Express gratitude: I just gave you valuable advice. The least you can do is say “thank you.” Jeez.
Find purpose: Don’t have hobbies. Have passions.
Double down on good relationships: Build your friendship 401K. Invest in good relationships now. The compound interest that comes from pals is incalculable.
If you’re still stuck, here are a couple more suggestions I found while I was doing research for this morning that I thought were great. Perfect your password. Create a password that brings you joy every time you type it. And second, As you’re walking around, keep a tally of chimneys, spires, or weathervanes. Looking up at the rooftops lifts your gaze, which opens up your posture and allows more light into the eyes, two things that can help to improve your mood.
A quote from Robert Holden:
“Inside each of us is a call to joy. The more you answer this call, the more you discover the truth of who you are, what is important and what your life is for. By following your joy, you experience the fullness of your being.”
The angel says to us, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” It is our responsibility to find and experience that joy and to share it with everyone we meet. Thanks be to God. Amen.