“Joy at the Harvest”

Is. 9

In the Name of God: Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. Amen.

I grew up in rural Massachusetts where both my great-grandfather and my grandfather had owned apple orchards; I often earned spending money working in an orchard on weekends and during the summer.

So, at an early age, I had an insider’s understanding of a phrase in tonight’s first lesson. The lesson is about the arrival of the Messiah, and it begins with the famous words, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;”

Isaiah then goes on to say,

“You have multiplied the nation,

you have increased its joy;

they rejoice before you

as with joy at the harvest,”

“Joy at the harvest” is indeed an intense form of pleasure. During the summer, we would work in the orchard for the minimum hourly wage doing routine tasks like pruning the trees. But when the apples were ripe, then we got paid according to how many bushels of apples we picked in a day. Then our income sky-rocketed!

The trees were laden with fruit and we rushed from tree to tree to see how much money we could earn. Joy at the Harvest!

Other Bible lessons that are read at Christmas also mention joy. The Psalm contains the line, “Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy before the LORD when he comes.” In the Gospel lesson, the angels who appear to the shepherds tell them, “Do not be afraid; for see– I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”

But because the word is mentioned so often at Christmas, this is a good time for us to ask ourselves what the concept means to us personally. What in life gives you the most joy?

The inward meaning of the word can of course differ with the individual. We all have our own sources of what the French call, “joie de vivre.” “Joy of Living.”

Some people feel the most pleasure when they are skiing down the hardest slope on the mountain. Others like nothing better than sitting in a comfortable chair with a good book or watching a football game.

Yet joy can be elusive. Like a harvest, it’s often beyond human control. Orchard growers know that they can never be sure that they will earn their living for the year until their apples are in the barn. If there happens to be a spring frost and the apple blossoms are damaged, the trees will bear no fruit for an entire season.

Thus, at the harvest, farmers experience two kinds of joy: expected and unexpected. The farmers work hard all year in anticipation of a profitable crop; yet that’s never a sure thing, and when the cash finally is deposited in the bank, the farmer is relieved and grateful.

Think, then, about your own joy. What pleasures in life do you expect—what do you look forward to? What joys do you feel you have earned—what fruits of your labor do you plan to harvest from your work? From your relationships?

I should admit, however, that I like many New Englanders don’t always do well at “joy.” We tend to see the dark side of things; we even look for lots of reasons why we don’t “deserve” to feel happy.

If you sometimes have this problem, it may be useful for you to take a look at your thought process. While you should ask yourself what gives you pleasure, it may be just as important to ask yourself what in life prevents you from receiving joy?

Again: I admit that I speak as a recovering New Englander! I don’t find that an optimistic attitude comes easily to me. I have to make an effort to cultivate joy – to see God’s gifts around me.

One translation of the message of the angels has them offering peace to “people of good will.” This translation suggests that peace may not come to people whose will isn’t directed toward the good.

If our hearts are filled with “negative energy,” we don’t find joy. More likely, we will be “killjoys.” Only those with open hearts can discover the joy that God wants to give them.

So especially, at Christmas time, you might think of the moments of happiness that arrive unexpectedly – out of the blue – a pure gift.

Ponder and treasure those moments, past and present, instead of returning in your mind to the clouds you see on your horizon. Don’t let those clouds keep you from seeing the harvest of blessings that God wants you to have.

Divine joy is all around us. As the Psalm said, “…all the trees of the wood shout for joy.” And the carol proclaims “Let Heaven and nature sing.” And on this sacred day, especially, the world offers you God’s wondrous love.

And now unto that same God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be ascribed as is most justly due all might, majesty, power, dominion, and praise, now and forever. Amen.


One Response to ““Joy at the Harvest””

  1. Patricia Woodcome Laursen says:

    Well done!!! A very nice sermon. We have much to be grateful for.

    May come hear a sermon in person some day.

    Pat & Phil Laursen

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