There was once a cantankerous, crabby old man. His neighbors avoided him. His four boys moved away from home as soon as they could. You get the picture. His poor wife was longsuffering in her presence. One night he went to bed and just slipped away. His four boys were called in. What should they do? “He was hard to live around, and no one could get along with him, but he was our pa. We owe him a decent burial, out in the meadow beyond the field.” So they went out to the barn and found some boards and made a casket. They put the box on their shoulders and carried it out past the barn. As they passed through the gate, one of the boys bumped into the post and this caused them to drop the box. The casket broke open and the cantankerous, crabby old man sat straight up. He had only been in a very deep… sleep!
Well, life got back to normal. He lived two more years, just as ornery and mean, cantankerous and crabby as ever. The boys could go back to their homes, but his poor wife had to stay with him. Then one night he went to bed and just slipped away. His four boys were called in. What should they do now? “Well, he was hard to live around, and no one could get along with him, but he was our pa. We owe him a decent burial, out in the meadow beyond the field.” So they went out to the barn and found some boards and made a casket and put the old man in it. They put the box on their shoulders and started out of the house. And as they did their mother, the old man’s wife said, “Boys, when you get out by the barn…be careful going through that gate, don’t bump into that post again!” (Credit to Bishop Kenneth Carter of the Florida UMC for that joke).”
This week for the third Sunday of Advent, we spoke about “joy.” Joy is something I have specifically prayed for all my life, “God give my your love & joy” has been the consistent prayer for my life for about 20 years now. The third Sunday of Advent, we are reminded of the great joy sent to us in the form of Jesus, as we await his coming, we are to be full of joy.
This semester in my Old Testament class, the professor started the year off by using this quote by Raymond Brown, “After all, in the Scriptures we are in our Father’s house where the children are permitted to play.” While we would be doing the difficult work of tediously going through the details of the Old Testament, we should not forget that we are playing around in the house of our father. What a beautiful image, to be children goofing off in our Father’s house.
So we hear the word of the Lord, on the third Sunday of Advent, and in many faith communities we will light the candle of joy. Ultimately, our joy is all about who Jesus is. My challenge to us this week is that we be joyful! Discover some occasion for laughter. Do not quench the spirit, let the waters flow in the desert, let the weeping turn to laughter, let the desert become a garden. Rejoice! You are not alone (as the prophet Isaiah said). Let the embrace you feel from the joy of the Lord be as Grady Nutt puts it, the “hand of God on the shoulder of a troubled world.”