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The trees of the forest sing for joy

This morning, we lit the candle of Joy in our Advent Wreath. And we read part of the Nativity story and Cynthia read for us

Psalm 96:  11-12

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy

What is Joy? “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness”  and also “delight, jubilationtriumphexultationrejoicing, gladness, gleeexhilarationexuberanceelationeuphoriablissecstasyrapture

Nehemiah 8:10 says

And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”

And another Psalm reminds us: Psalm 28:7

The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.

But what does that mean for us as Christians at this time of year? For starters we are celebrating and remembering Christ’s birth. But his birth and his life and Christ’s death is nothing without victory over death. This is true joy! While we celebrate and remember that Oneness with God is possible because Christ came to show us the way, through that small child in a manger, what we are truly celebrating is the light that has come into the world through victory over death.

This is the time of year for joy!

It’s also a time of year when here in Panama we spend time outdoors: at the beach, in the sun, hiking, exploring, swimming, paddle boarding. And so this Christmas Eve, I want to invite you to use those moments in nature to remember that all of earth is simply a reflection of the greatness of God and that the mountains, valleys and even the ocean remind us of the joy that we have through Oneness with our Creator.

Job 12, verses 7 through 10 remind us:

But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you.  Which of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.

In a similar way, Psalm 19, verse 1 says:

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

And Psalm 33:5

… the earth is full of his unfailing love.

And the prophet Isaiah in chapter 43, verse 20

The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen.

And then later in Isaiah 55:12

For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

As you spend time at the beach over the coming weeks and months, or go boating or water-skiing, meditate on the greatness and awe of the creation of the Earth.  Think about how nature reflects the creative nature of God and the creation story.  And consider for a moment, as you contemplate the vastness of the ocean, or the stillness of the tropical jungle, the intricacies of the perfect balance of life.  Take a moment to watch an ant work – carrying its load back to the colony, or contemplate the lessons that you can find in the variety of plant life that covers the floor of the tropical forest.  A close look at the millions of animal life types that we have in Panama should be enough to humble you before our awesome God and Creator: to realize how truly ignorant we are.

 

But the reality is that we need to do more than just appreciate God in creation.  It’s not enough just to learn from the jackals and owls, to enjoy how the sky proclaims the glory of God. You also have an important role to play. The same way that nature speaks of God, and of the celebration of life, death and victory over death: you should also be this witness.

Nature doesn’t speak using words: it is silent. It just is – and by its  being it demonstrates the joy and the peace of complete communion with God. Even in the majesty of an angry ocean, we can appreciate the power of God.

So even if you don’t speak, does the way you live reflect your relationship with God? If you could never speak a word, could people see from the way that you live your life that you are a child of God? Does your life reflect the joy of the Lord?

Spiritually, I’m not talking about cheeriness or bubbly, feel good.  I’m talking about the settled assurance that God controls all the details of life: where you live in a quiet confidence that all things work together for good of those who love God and are called according to God’s purpose.  I am talking about choosing to thank God and practice gratitude in spite of the situation.  Joy is not about feeling good all the time; it’s not about living as a person who is naturally upbeat and optimistic: being that bubbly, peppy person that the melancholy look at with envy.  No – I’m talking about a deep inner peace that shows itself as joy in your life.

 

Earlier we read Job 12, verses 7 through 10:

But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you.  Which of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.

Would someone come to ask you to teach them about God because of the way that you are living your life? Can they see God through you? This Christmas season are you the reason for the season? Does your life reflect the hand of God?

I want to close this morning with a reminder of our first reading:

Psalm 96:  11-12

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy.

In this same way, our lives should reflect the glory of God: be glad, rejoice, exult with everything that in you. And sing for joy!

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