Reverend Dawn M. Conti

 

From The Pastor:

The Perfect Gift

Is your Christmas shopping finished? Did you brave the Black Friday crowds or spend time shopping online on Cyber Monday? What if I told you there is a Christmas gift guaranteed to “fit” anyone and everyone? The gift I have in mind is perfectly appropriate for that person who doesn’t have a thing as well as the one who seems to have it all. This absolutely free present is guaranteed to improve the quality of your life and the lives of the those you love.

The gift that I am describing is God’s gift of Joy. Who wouldn’t want a more joy-full life? But what exactly is joy? How do we live as God’s joyful people? And what can we do about the things in life that threaten to take our joy away?

God’s Joy, which breaks into the world in the Christ child, is available to all. But sadly, few remember, or were ever taught, much about it. Not many know how to claim God’s Joy. Although this time of year is supposed to be full of joy, for many people, financial, health or family circumstances, can drain the joy out of the season. In fact, idealized Hollywood images of perfect family gatherings, carefree Holi-day parties, and material abundance often stands in sharp contrast with life’s realities, pushing some further into despair than at any other time of the year.

This, however, is not God’s desire for us. Christ is the one who came that we “might have life and have it abundant-ly” (John 10:10) . . . “that our joy would be complete.” (John 15:11). In the hope of fostering the capacity to live more joy-fully, I’ll be preaching a four week long sermon series titled, “Unwrapping God’s Gift of Joy.” The first sermon in this se-ries, The Joy of the Lord, based on John 16:20-24, will be preached on December 7th, the second Sunday of Advent. This sermon will unpack what God’s joy is, what it isn’t, and what difference God’s joy can make in life.

The second sermon, Reclaiming Joy, based on I Kings 19:1-18, will be preached on December 14th, the third Sunday of Advent. This sermon will focus on how God comes to us in our time of need. Those who hear it will be empowered to embody the love of Christ, by understanding and helping those who suffer (often more so at this time of year) from depression, the number one psychological illness in America to-day.

The third sermon, The Joy of Faith, based on Matthew 1:18-25, will be preached on December 21st, the fourth Sunday of Advent. This sermon will focus on the joy that is released when we surrender to God’s will as we learn from Mary and Joseph’s response to God’s call to parenthood.

The fourth and final sermon, based on Philippians 4:4-7, will be preached on January 4th, the second Sun-day of Christmas, and will focus on the protection we have in Christ against the joy killers of worry, fear, resentment, bitterness, and the “two evil twins” of blame and shame.

As always, the sermons preached at Kanapaha Church may be read on line at the church’s web-site: www.kanapaha.net. Printed copies of each sermon in this series will be available on the Sunday preached on the table in the narthex of the Sanctuary and on the back table in Memorial Hall. Recorded audio DVD’s of each sermon in the series will be available the week after they have been preached in the same locations.

The Joy of the Lord is God’s free gift that lasts well past the Advent and Christmas season; Joy is God’s gift for a lifetime. During this season especially, I hope you will invite your extended family, friends, and neighbors to discover or rediscover God’s gift of Joy through preaching at Kanapaha Church. My hope and prayer is that when we sing, “Joy to the World!” at the Christmas Eve candlelight service, we will be well on our way, to unwrapping God’s good gift of Joy and living more joy-filled lives.

In the Joy of faith,

Pastor Dawn