SERMON TITLE: “Spirit of Joy”
SERMON TEXT: Luke 1:39-56
PREACHER: Rev. Kim James
OCCASION: December 23, 2018, at First UMC
During our Joys and Concerns prayers last week, I lifted up the good news that our son Oscar had just completed his high school credits. Many of you quickly understood why that was such a celebration for Steve and me. Others of you might not know enough about my family to understand what the fuss was about. Compared to the Carlsons’ daughter Mallory earning a Master’s degree in Math, why were we so happy about a mere high school graduation?
Well, let me tell you our story. In May 2005, my husband Steve and I traveled to the South American country of Colombia and adopted our two children. Angie had just recently turned 8. Her little brother Oscar was just shy of 7. Their early years of life had been traumatic, and they needed a family to love them.
At the time of the adoption, Steve and I believed deeply in the power of love. We were capable people with Christian faith and a middle-class American lifestyle. We figured that our loving care—along with church, a strong community, education, nutrition, medical care, a stable life, and plenty of prayer would cure whatever might ail those two little kids. But we soon realized that all was not well in paradise. We very quickly adapted our optimistic plan to include regular appointments with a Spanish-speaking psychologist. Within a few years, we added a doctor of psychiatry and mental health medications to the list of resources we relied upon for support.
But, even then, both kids continued to struggle in school, learning was very difficult, behavior was a constant problem, and soon, both Angie and Oscar were doing everything they could to avoid attending class at all. Angie began running away from home at the age of 12. Her reactive attachment disorder was on full display as she spent her teenage years defying every person and every institution that tried to help her. Oscar did a little better, but he began sluffing regularly in his sophomore year of high school, went AWOL for weeks and months at a time, and ended up in the juvenile justice system. Later, he ended up in the adult justice system. All that interfered with his completion of high school, of course. So, for our 20-year old son to now finally complete his high school credits is a very big deal. That’s certainly not to say that he’s made a complete turn around and that there will only be smooth sailing ahead. But this development right now has us parents leaping for joy.
I know the circumstances are quite different, but maybe this feeling my husband and I are experiencing is, in some small way, something like the feelings of the characters in the Christmas story. If so, it’s a good feeling. That’s why I invite you this morning to delve into Luke 1:39-56 with me. Let’s see if we can all experience this spirit of joy.