“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
– Luke 1:46-47
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Do you ever wonder why the third candle of Advent is pink? This is Joy Sunday. Traditionally, Advent is a season of repentance and spiritual reflection, just like Lent, and the liturgical color for both is purple. Joy Sunday is the bright spot in the middle of Advent, so instead of using purple, people lighten it up to pink. It is a reminder that God promises us “the oil of joy for mourning” (Isaiah 61:3). And if there was ever a year when we needed joy in the midst of mourning, 2020 is it!
Isaiah 61 is our first reading this Sunday, and you will probably recognize it. It is the passage Jesus turns to in Luke 4, as he reads, “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor...” (Luke 4:18). Can you imagine how astounded people must have been when he said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). In that moment, he claims the prophecy in Isaiah as being about himself. He basically says, “You know the Messiah you have been waiting for? That’s me.”
The people in power in the synagogue were furious at this declaration, and they immediately tried to throw him off a cliff. But I have always wondered how the poor and blind and oppressed must have responded. The Messiah was not just coming to replace political power. He was coming to turn power upside down. He would turn grief into joy, oppression into freedom, and darkness into light.
Linked to these two passages is Mary’s song in Luke 1. When she finds out she is going to give birth to the Messiah, this humble and faithful teenager immediately understands that God is turning the world upside down. She is no princess or heiress. She is a nobody in a nothing town. As she sings her song, she rejoices in this heavenly reversal: “He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.” (Luke 1:51-52).
This is the God who brings joy in the midst of mourning. This is the God who lifts up the poor, blind, oppressed, and imprisoned. This is the God who brings light out of darkness. This is the God we worship even when our circumstances feel hopeless.
Joy is so much more than a feeling or emotion. Joy is bedrock. Nehemiah with all of his struggles knew this deep in his soul. He encouraged the people, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh 8:10). As we rejoice in the Lord, he gives us strength, and that strength gives us more joy to endure all circumstances. This is the strength God gave Paul in prison. This is the strength God can give us in 2020.
This Sunday, we will sing the carol, “How Great Our Joy,” and I love this line: “There shall the Child lie in a stall, This Child who shall redeem us all.” Our Redeemer is come. Let us rejoice in Him!
Christmas Eve Candle Lighting:
One of the best parts of our Christmas Eve services is the moment we all get to light candles during “Silent Night.” We would love to do a virtual candle lighting for that evening. Would you and your household like to participate? We basically just need a short video (taken on a phone is fine) with you all sitting in a dark room and lighting a candle. You don’t need to say anything, just light a candle. It can be in front of your Christmas tree or decorations, but that’s not required. You can email your videos to email@example.com – then our amazing tech team will edit them together so you can still see your church family lighting candles on Christmas Eve. Please send us a video by December 16. If you have questions or need help, please let us know!
Christmas Eve Services:
We will be streaming our Christmas Eve Family Service at 5pm and our Traditional Christmas Eve service at 7:30pm. Both services will feature the Christmas story told by children of our church, so you won’t want to miss it. The Family Service will be led by our praise band, and the Traditional Service will offer a talented string quintet and a vocal quartet. The preludes for both will start about 15 minutes before the services. Invite friends and family to join us on Facebook at YouTube as well!
We are back online for Sunday School. Pastor Steve and the Lamplighter class will continue with their offering for any adults who are interested. This is the link to log in at 11:15 - https://duq.zoom.us/j/97403542430 If you would like to be on the email list for the adult class, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org The Youth and Children’s classes will return online as well, so email us if you would like information about how to connect with those groups.
In addition to these Sunday School offerings, we have several small groups meeting online almost every day of the week, and we have groups for Tweeners, Middle School and High School, Young Adults, Women, Men, and coed groups. If you are interested in becoming part of one of these groups, please contact us at 412-531-3387 or email@example.com
Sunday Prayer Group:
A group of us gather on Zoom every Sunday at 7pm to pray together, and we would love to have you join us! Please use this link for a computer, tablet, or mobile phone.: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/92561964416?pwd=NmZoNDV3dDNqSVFubW82TEx0bll0Zz09 . You can also call in from a regular phone – dial 1-646-558-8656 and enter the Meeting ID - 925 6196 4416 and the password is 798565. For more info, contact Pat Gaudio at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, please let us know if there is any way we can support you or connect with you during this season. You can email us at email@example.com, with any needs, prayer requests, or just updates on how you are doing. And you are always welcome to call us at 412-531-3387.