Last week we heard about Mary and her encounter with the angel Gabriel, and her saying yes to God. This week we hear about Joseph having a similar experience and saying yes to God. When have you said yes to God?
Some people, no matter what is offered, their initial response is no. Are you one of those? Do you need time to sit with something before you can say yes to it? Are you fearful? Are you cautious?
Shonda Rhimes, the creator of Grey’s Anatomy, was a person who said no a lot. Fear was one reason… lack of confidence was another. She got so disgusted about the opportunities she was wasting and the example she was teaching her children that she decided that for a year she would say yes to everything. And so of course, she wrote a book entitled, My Year of Saying Yes. Which is in my study at home waiting to be read… but I did listen to a podcast where she talked about it. (I tell you, I love doing sermon prep while I am driving!)
Now, you wouldn’t think that anyone with the success like she has had would feel insecure would you? One of the invitations she received in her year of saying yes was to sit in a private box with Barak and Michelle Obama during some event… her first instinct was to say no… But then she thought, “This is my year of saying yes… I have to go… I don’t want to go, but I have to… what will I wear, what will I say…” You know the routine don’t you? All the things we tell ourselves. And of course, she had a wonderful time, and found the Obamas to be likeable and engaging conversationalists.
What do we miss out when we say no? What joy to we refuse to let in when we are fearful? What if Joseph said no to the angel? What would he have missed out on?
What would the world have missed out on? What if he had dismissed the angel’s message out of fear, shame or humiliation?
He would have done what Dr. Brené Brown calls, ‘foreboding joy.’ Where you either don’t do something because you are afraid of what will happen. Or you can’t really enjoy something because you are so fearful of what MIGHT happen. Again, anyone here ever done that? Al Wallace, in the Tuesday afternoon study group told us that while he drives a motorcycle, and his son drives a motorcycle, they don’t go on trips together, because Al is afraid of what might happen, because it is a more dangerous way to travel. He forgoes the joy of a shared experience with his son, because of fear. We suppress or numb our fear with drugs… with alcohol… with work… with shopping… with busyness… because we don’t want to deal with how we feel.
Dr. Brown tells a story of being very anxious on a flight and the man next to her suggests a drink… when she says she doesn’t drink, he leans over and offers her a tranquilizer. She said if he had offered her chips and pop, she would have been all over it. So obviously we know what her ‘drug’ of choice is. What her research has demonstrated is that when we numb the bad feelings… we also numb the good ones… If we want to feel joy, we must also feel sorrow. We, as a society are not very good about sitting with our hard emotions and figuring out what is going on. But I suggest that unless we do that work… unless we sit with our uncomfortable feelings… we will not feel as much joy as we could.
I asked my friend Liz Feltham to describe what bring her joy. Liz is a woman about my age, who was diagnosed with ALS about a year and a half ago. Some of you may remember my trip to Victoria to see almost a year ago. A trip that I undertook with a bit of trepidation… as I had only met her shortly before she moved to Victoria… we mostly got to know each other through chatting on-line and reading each other’s blogs… and I didn’t know her husband at all. And I was going to be staying with them! Full of ‘what ifs’ like, What if she doesn’t like me? What if I don’t like her? What if her husband is a jerk? What if we find out that we really don’t have that much to talk about? With all that ringing in my ears and heart I made the plane reservations… only to have the flight cancelled due to snow… I wondered if it was a sign… however, I got on a plane the next day… and we had a wonderful visit with deep conversations… much laughter… and maybe just a bit of wine.
So when I asked her what brought her joy, this is what she said, “When I was first diagnosed with ALS the only thing the doctor told me to worry about measuring was my peace and my joy. And I have carried those words because he was right. I think that nothing can block joy if you let it in… and sometimes it takes a lot of work to let something joyful in if you are in a particularly dire situation. But it can always be found.
I also think that joy can be given or choose us with something wonderful and spontaneous… for example… yesterday I was out for the first time in a long time because it’s been raining… there was a family of otters playing just on the other side of the cover… they brought joy… it was a gift… I think we have to make sure we are open to joy… it can be blocked by sad or die circumstances but if you make a habit of letting it in… it will sneak in like water… even if you think your place is waterproof it finds a way to sneak in.”
It will sneak in like water… like the waters a baby is cradled inside her mother… like the waters of baptism… the waters of life… to cleanse, refresh and renew.
My friends… say yes!
Yes to joy!
Yes to life!
Yes, yes yes!
Thanks be to God for the challenge and the opportunity of saying yes! Amen.
Matthew 1: 18-25
December 10, 2017 – EPC
© Catherine MacDonald 2017
Check out Liz’s blog here.