by Pastor Bill Geis

“I always pray with joy ….”
Philippians 1:4

I believe the Bible is inspired. But sometimes, I just wonder if God smiles with a cute dimple and a wink in his eye as prophets and apostles write for him. I’m absolutely sure that God smiled when Paul wrote, “I always pray with joy.” What I don’t know is if he also winked!

Really Paul? You always pray with joy? I confess that I won’t be called up for heaven’s award assembly on that one. But I’m really glad God gave you the inspiration to write that!

There’s no time like Advent and Christmas for joy! And as I say it, I know God is smiling again. We know it’s supposed to be a season of joy, but oh how we get tripped up at this time year! And most of the time the joy-spoilers are really silly. I could share a hundred examples of petty things that I have allowed to steal my joy. You could too. Sometimes, we need to remember to wink at the things we let steel our joy.

I think Paul could pray with joy because he was able to wink instead of wringing his hands.

When someone or something wrestles with our joy,
instead of wringing our hands, why not fold them in prayer?

This Sunday, the Gospel lesson begins, “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.…” This is the beginning of a massive run-on sentence, 55 words in length, which describes people and places that weren’t behaving very nicely together. The setting is a real joy killer! In all this mess, the Bible says, “the word of God came.” God winked!

Even more outrageous, God sends a fiery preacher, that crazy guy John, with the message. You gotta love it! His message is, “stop behaving like temperamental, back-biting children and make way for Jesus.” There are two ways to listen to John. One is to be defensive and scolded. The other is to be brought to our senses and see Jesus. One ends in a frown, the other winks in the face of God.

These are the days of Advent. These are the days of hope… peace… joy… and love. But they can also be the days that draw us down the path of false expectations… comforts… pleasures… and affections. The road to Christmas is easily cluttered with obstacles that can trip us up. That’s why God sends messengers like John and Paul to make sure we see Jesus. It takes a little practice, but one way avoid the trappings of the holidays is to have your own secret way to wink with God in the middle of daily annoyances. Like Paul, find a chance to wink and “pray with joy!”

I hope you’ll join us for worship this weekend as we, in all seriousness, “fill in the valleys” of disappointment and “level the mountains” of inflated expectations. These are the days of hope… peace… joy ... love. These are the days to wink in the face of Jesus.


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