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Joy and the emotional rollercoaster of Christmas

Canobie CannonballDevotional thought for our days:

9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth h in Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. 10 As soon as He came up out of the water, He saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending to Him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: You are My beloved Son; I take delight in You! 
12 Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. t 13 He was in the wilderness 40 days, being tempted u by Satan. v He was with the wild animals, w and the angels x began to serve Him.  Mark 1:9-13  HCSB

Thus we are told that only through Christ did real joy appear and that in our life, in the last analysis, nothing matters more than coming to recognize and to understand Christ, the God of grace, the light and the joy of the world. Only then will our joy be true, when it no longer relies on things that can be snatched away from us and can perish, but when it is rooted in the innermost core of our existence, which no power in all the world is able to take away from us. And every outward loss ought to become for us a pathway into these innermost realms and to prepare us ever more for our true life.

Christmas is an emotional rollercoaster of epic extremes.  To go from the pressure of rushing around, trying to find perfect gifts, to the moments where a hug from a friend or relative means everything, to the loneliness that occurs, as we realize who we are missing in our life. Like being on the roller coaster, we are not in control, and we don’t always know how to prepare for the next drop or the corkscrewing turn.

For those in ministry, the roller coaster includes our ministry, as well as our own “private” lives.  Often we go from trying to reconcile a divided family, to celebrate a service with joy, to worrying about a friend in surgery or recovery, to being there while another friend mourns.  And we get to tell everyone that there is JOY in this world!

The reading from Mark’s gospel helps this morning, as we see Jesus going from His miraculous baptism, from hearing the Father’s cry of delight, immediately into the desert, to be assaulted by Satan. From the purity of a sacred moment, into the assault and oppression of Satan himself.  

Jesus knows our roller coasters, he knows all too well our brokenness, our struggle with our emotions trying to keep up with the moment’s challenge. In revealing His love, in dying on the cross and rising again, He comes into our lives. and brings peace.

This is what Pope Benedict is talking about as he teaches about joy, this joy that comes from realizing that we are in the presence of Jesus. as we are given the hope of glory, as we are comforted by the presence of the Holy Spirit.  The roller coaster doesn’t disappear, but we realize there will be a time when this ride ends, and we will share in His glory. 

If I have learned anything about Christmas and its emotional rollercoaster, it is this.  In order to survive it, I need to spend some time, looking at the manger, trying to put myself there, realizing that the Lord came into our lives because He loves us.  Then, hearing Him reveal HIs love, we find the deepest peace, and in that peace, joy.  

God has given Himself to us, fully.  Think on that, focus on it, as we prepare to celebrate it, together. 

Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.




The Roller Coaster of Life…How to Ride it in Joy:

Devotional Thoughts of a day that wavered in devotion….

7  We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 8  We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9  We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10  Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.    2 Corinthians 4:7-10 (NLT)

Yesterday, the entire “day” seemed like a downer, until I got to Bible Study – and we looked at the church in Phillipi.  If  I had to compare it to anything – it would be like a long subway ride, with all the lights out….. and finally Bible Study – with the incredible saints here at my church – lifted me out of the darkness and gloom.  Fellowship – the partnership with God in the sharing His love and work to reveal that love to us (i.e. the gospel) that Paul shared with the Philippians and I share with the Concordians – does that.  It pulls us out of our gloom, our darkness… for assuredly where two or three (or 25) are gathered in His name – He is there, with them.

Today – well – it’s been less a subway – and more like a roller coaster – the ups (another Bible Study and Devotions) were quickly dropped into lows, and then the hard slow grind back to the top.  ( I think that was lunch – reading a good book!) and then – woosh – off we go again!  There are days I just wished all I could do is teach and preach and lead worship – from waking up until lieing down.  (I know better than going into academia – they have more meetings and grading papers, and accreditation and. and and… blech – give me the subway!)

Paul likewise had some challenging days!  These kinds of spiritual/emotional/psycho/physical roller coasters didn’t start yesterday.  They’ve been around a while, these roller coasters!  The challenge is to find out how to have our faith, in the midst of the highs and lows. The challenge is to not go about it on our strength – but to cling to Christ – by remembering He has us fully in His grasp.

Our hope is found in the same place Paul found his sustenance.  It is the dunamis – the power of God – the work of the Holy Spirit – within us, the very promise delivered to us in our baptism.  We find our resilience – our ability to stand – not in our ability, rather because we know He has placed us there, and that He stands with us, He is our armor, our righteousness, our strength.

He is why we can withstand the stomach bouncing drops – and the long drags back up the hill… for we are more aware of His presence – than anything else.  For if we have been united with His death and resurrection – it stands to reason that He has been united with us, and we indeed carry God about in us, as we enjoy the ride… trusting in Him.


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