November 29, 2015
Tuesday afternoon I went to get a haircut. And while I was in the chair, the discussion inevitably turned to Thanksgiving and the meal ahead. “What kind of trimmings are you having with your turkey?” I asked. “Mom asked if I wanted pecan or chocolate pie…I told her, ‘Mom…there’s only one option — chocolate!”
And we also talked about some main dishes — brussells sprouts? (“How do you fix them so they don’t taste bitter?”) And hominy. And asparagus. And dressing. (“Corn bread?” “Of course.”) And green beans. And a few other items and recipes.
And as I (hungrily) drove home and reflected on that conversation I thought how it was something of a parable for us. Thanksgiving is culturally accepted as a favorite holiday, but not everybody likes all the options of a traditional thanksgiving meal. Some of you like cornbread dressing and others don’t. Cranberry sauce? Most don’t care for it, but you’re willing to tolerate it once a year. Sweet potato casserole? (Marshmallow or pecan topping?) And hominy? Brussels sprouts? And others just don’t want the holiday. The day and the practice of voicing gratitude are just as distasteful and hard to swallow as a heaping helping of brussells spouts for most folks.
It’s hard to be thankful when you are hurting. It’s hard to be joyful when you others have gained treasures and you have lost loved ones and treasures. Others’ lives are full and yours is not.
Maybe that’s why one writer observed, “Everywhere I go I see people suffering from a lack of whole-hearted, overflowing joy — even Christians. Pessimism and gloom hang like a blanket of smog over the land.” [George Sweeting] It’s easy to complain; it’s easy to be discontent. It’s hard to be joyful.
So as we finish Thanksgiving and begin the advent season and come this morning to the communion table, I thought it would be fitting to come to a passage that reminds us of a simple message for all of us. This is a message that will seem hard for some of us and easy for others; but as we make our way through Paul’s words in Philippians 4, both those of us who are struggling and those who are “happy,” will have our hearts transformed into a genuine joy in Christ. Here’s the principle in Philippians 4:4-7 —
Whatever your circumstances, pursue joy in Christ.
- Always Rejoice (v. 4)
- Choose to cultivate joy
- Cultivate joy in Christ
- Cultivate joy in Christ in all circumstances
- Be Known for Your Gentleness (v. 5)
- Be Anxious for Nothing (v. 6a)
- Be Prayerful About Everything (v. 6b)
- And God Will Protect You (v. 7)
Download the rest of this sermon from Philippians 4:4-7.
The audio will be posted on the GBC website later today.