Finding Joy: Puppet Remix

Continuing my habit of posting the puppet skits that go along with the sermon. The others can be found at goo.gl/lb9u0S, and goo.gl/gXP36W.

Characters: Sherlock, Watson the Angel, Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist. Sherlock is holding a video game controller. An extra puppeteer can do this, furiously touching buttons when Sherlock is playing.

Enter Sherlock and Watson, Sherlock is playing a video game with intensity

Watson: Sherlock. . . . Sherlock . . . . . Sherlock, it’s me, Watson . . . .Sherlock . . . . . . . . (shouting) SHERLOCK!

Sherlock: AHHHHHHHHHH!

Watson: AHHHHHH!

Sherlock: Why must you always scare me?!

Watson: Why must your being scared always be scary?! The other angels will be wondering just how angelic I am, my halo slips every time you frighten me!

Sherlock: While your angelic standing might be in doubt, there is no doubt bout my investigative abilities, for I have solved a case quite apart from your help my dear Watson! (goes back to playing)

Watson: What have you solved? What have you found?

Sherlock: (continuing to play – being intense about it) can’t you tell? I’m experiencing it right now! . . take that! . . . don’t you dare, DON”T YOU DARE! leftleftleftleftleftLEFT I SAID!! No right! No left!

Watson: Confusion?

Sherlock: (continuing to play with intensity) Of course not, straight, straight, STRAIGHT, no no no no NO!

Watson: Frustration?

Sherlock: (continuing to play with intensity) Of course not! Frustrated? Can’t you see I am busy having fun here?!

Watson: Kinda. I guess. So Sherlock?

Sherlock: (interrupting and getting really annoyed with his game and Watson) Stop interrupting Watson, I am at a very critical moment – no no no left not left straight no left no right no no no no no NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! . . . . (stops playing) Watson, you made me lose the game with only 3,582,498,934.5 points.

Watson: 3,582,498,934.5 points? Good grief Sherlock, how long have you been playing? And should you not be searching for clues for something?

Sherlock: Well I was looking for clues that would lead me to joy, then I found what I thought was a clue, but it turned out to be it, joy itself!

Watson: What was it?

Sherlock: An Atari 2600 video game console.

Watson: Finding an Atari 2600 was finding joy?

Sherlock: Well for a while, until I realized it was only a clue that led to joy . . .

Watson: Which was found in?

Sherlock: An Intellivision video game console. But then I realized that was just a clue as to where to find joy when I discovered the Commodore 64 was joy itself. But then I realized that was just a clue when I discovered that the Nintendo Entertainment System was joy itself. Then along came the GameBoy. Then the Playstation, then the Nintendo 64, then the Playstation 2, then the  Xbox, then the Xbox 360,  . . . but now after all these clues I have found pure joy itself.

Watson: In what?

Sherlock: Either the PlayStation 4 or the Xbox One. They are both good.

Watson: Until the Playstation 5 or the Xbox Two come out I suppose?

Sherlock: Then the joy will continue!

Watson: I don’t think you have found joy Sherlock.

Sherlock: Of course I have. Could you not see how happy I was while I was gaming?

Watson: Well not really. And even if I could, joy is not found in experiences that make you happy.

Sherlock: But of course it is. The person who feels happy is a person of joy. Elementary dear Watson.

Watson: But emotions can be very short-lived. And you may only feel happy during experiences that make you happy. When bad things happen, your happiness will turn to sadness. For example, will you be happy if the power goes out and your video games stop working?

Sherlock: That’s what my PS Vita is for. Games and joy on the go. As I said, elementary dear Watson!

Watson: But at some point you will need to stop playing and get back to work. I know you find great delight in your work, but what about some of the people you have worked with? Some of the people who have had bad things happen to them? While our happy emotions might disappear with the next bad event, did you know that we can have an underlying joy throughout all of life’s circumstances?

Sherlock: Hmmmm. I wonder if that is what I am really looking for?

Watson: I think I know of someone who can help.

Sherlock: Are we going back in time? If so, on the way can I have another go at Missile Command on the Atari. I was just getting the hang of that one!

Watson: We are going back further than that. We are going to see Elizabeth who is pregnant with John the Baptist and to hear what she said when she met Mary when she was pregnant with Jesus

Enter Elizabeth

Elizabeth: God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said. (taken from NLT)

Sherlock: The baby jumped for joy? In the womb? Without video games? Without tv? Without entertainment? Without anything at all?

Watson: Except being near Jesus.

Sherlock: So joy is found in being near Jesus?

Watson: Well yes, and joy is a big part of the Christmas story, for at Christmas God was breaking in on the world to really change things up for the better through Jesus. The Bible teaches that because of Jesus we can become sons and daughters of God. That is a fact which cannot change, a fact which will bring us joy, even when things go bad and times are tough.

Sherlock: Even when the ghosts catch Pacman?

Watson: Of course.

Sherlock: Hmmm. This raises a whole new case to be solved. A whole new set of clues will be needed.

Watson: How is that?

Sherlock: It would appear that many people today are pursuing pleasure and happiness, who would do better to rather be looking for the lasting joy you speak of. The case to be solved is this: how do we get people who are currently seeking and having so much fun, to seek for joy before their happiness runs out?

Watson: Good question Sherlock. But perhaps this time before we seek clues, we should seek the Lord in prayer!

Sherlock: Of course, dear Watson!

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Finding Joy

small_4293098263Where do people find joy in our society? Often through fun, entertainment, and pleasurable experiences. Which would you like first, the good news or the bad news?

Let me begin with the bad news: Whatever fun you are having, whatever pleasure you are experiencing, it will come to an end. Experience teaches us this. I love to watch the snow fall, the bigger the flakes, the more blustery the conditions, the better. Clearing it afterward, not so much. Think of any fun or pleasurable experience you have ever had. It always comes to an end. If we pursue joy through pursuing fun and pleasure, joy will always fade or be replaced by the not so fun and not pleasurable. As the Bible teaches: “Whoever loves pleasure will suffer want” (Proverbs 21:17 NRSV).

Now for the good news:

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11 NRSV)

The angel described his good news as being “of great joy.” I am reminded of good news of great joy when I announced the birth of each of my boys to friends and family. It is not just a happy moment, it is a permanent change in circumstances. I am now a Dad no matter what happens. In Christ we are given the possibility of being sons and daughters of the King of kings, Lord of lords – no matter what happens. The child of God will not always be happy, but there is a joy in knowing you are a loved, forgiven, reconciled child of God. That fact is permanent. That joy is known even when happiness is not felt.

More bad news: Whatever fun you are having, whatever pleasure you are experiencing, it may distract you from what is really great. I had quite a bit of fun playing on an Atari 2600 as a young lad. But if I could go back, I would play less games and read more books. How did I miss so many great reads? Jesus confirms that the seeking of pleasure can distract us from what is truly great:

There is good news:

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11 NRSV)

While pursuing pleasure and fun can distract us from what it truly great in life, we take delight in the the good news of Jesus Christ for it leads us deeper and closer to what is truly great in life. Justice is good. Jesus leads us there. Honesty is good. Jesus leads us there. Compassion is good. Jesus teaches us that. Forgiveness and reconciliation is good. Jesus brings it and enables us to do it. And on and on we could go through a list of truly great things that the good news of Jesus Christ leads us to. No wonder the angel said the birth of Jesus was good news of great joy.

More bad news: Whatever fun you are having, whatever pleasure you are experiencing, it may not end well. Again we know this from experience. How many people have sought happiness through sex and ended up making themselves, and others, miserable. How many people have bought something that will make them happy, only digging themselves deeper into debt and stress and therefore misery.

There is good news:

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11 NRSV)

There is joy in the good news of Jesus Christ because in Christ things will end well. The book of Revelation is a great place to go and see this. The angel announces the birth of the Saviour. That is good news of great joy!

Not only is there assurance that things will end well, there is also the distinct possibility that things can go well when we pay attention to the teachings of Jesus, the prompting of the Spirit, and the wisdom of the Word of God. Though being no guarantee that life will be easy, paying attention to God’s will and way will have a very positive impact on our relationships, our work, and indeed all of life. The angel announces the birth of the Lord, the Shepherd who leads. That is good news of great joy.

And some more bad news: Whatever fun you are having, whatever pleasure you are experiencing, it is exclusive, even elusive. Have you been to Disney-world? Congratulations, the majority of the children have not gone and cannot go. Do you like to watch tv? Congratulations, you have a privilege that is unavailable for many. I may be grumpy that my motorcycle trades places with my snowblower, but how many people have the opportunity to enjoy motorcycling as much as I do? Or how many people enjoy the use of a snowblower to deal with the snow?

But there is good news:

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11 NRSV)

While a select few will ever have the pleasure of piloting an airplane, skiing the Swiss alps, or sailing the oceans, the good news of Jesus Christ is good news for all. Anyone can come to salvation through Jesus, no matter your race, your abilities, your past behaviour, or anything else that you may think defines you. Anyone can know this joy. I hope you do.

Now take a look around. You will see people pursuing joy through fun, entertainment, and pleasurable experiences. Joy found through such will come to an end, may distract from what is truly great, and may not end well. Just as the angels announced to the shepherds, and just as the shepherds announced to others, we have good news of great joy to share this Christmas.

photo credit: Funky64 (www.lucarossato.com) via photopin cc

Finding Peace: Puppet Remix

The puppet skit to go along with the previously posted sermon:

Characters: Sherlock – a private investigator, An angel named Watson, A shepherd.

Sherlock: (looking around with magnifying glass, finally sees Watson): AHHHHHHHH!

Watson: AHHHHHHHH!

Sherlock: Oh you again. You scared me again!

Watson: Yes, me again, and you sacred me again. What are you looking for now Sherlock?

Sherlock: Why clues of course dear Watson. But I suspect you are wondering what is behind this search. While I thank you for pointing me towards hope last week, this week I am looking for peace.

Watson: Well that explains why I am here again, I happen to know a thing or two about peace.

Sherlock: (interrupting) Not now dear Watson, methinks I am onto something! (stares into the congregation) Ah, there is a person who has found peace, perhaps I should interrogate her to see where she found it.

Watson: Who? Where?

Sherlock: That person over there! (pointing into the congregation)

Watson: Oh, Lois, yes she has found peace. But I don’t think she would appreciate being interrogated.

Sherlock: And there is another person who has found peace, over there. (pointing into the congregation)

Watson: Oh that is Mrs. T, yes she also has found peace.

Sherlock: (interrupting) And there is another one (pointing), though . . . that is so strange. . .yes, I really need to interrogate him for it is so strange that he has found peace.

Watson: How so?

Sherlock: He is a Toronto Maple Leafs fan. How could a Maple Leaf fan know peace?

Watson: Oh you mean Peter. Sherlock, I think I can help you know why these people have found peace.

Sherlock: (interrupting) Not now dear Watson, I’m onto something. Yes, . . yes, . . there are more here, and there, and everywhere. I have solved it! I have thought it through and I know where these people have found peace.

Watson: And where is that?

Sherlock: Well its all very elementary dear Watson. Do you see what all these people have in common? And I want you to pay particular and close attention to where they are.

Watson: You mean, the fact that they are in church?

Sherlock: Precisely dear Watson, which leads us exactly to where hope can be found. In religion! Yes that is it. Case solved. Peace can be found in religion.

Watson: I don’t think that is it.

Sherlock: But of course it is. And you being an angel ought to agree. When one feels at peace with God, one is at peace. People can make peace with God by being religious and being good. Its just like Santa Claus – be good and it all turns out well.

Watson: It is not at all like Santa Claus. We can be good enough for Christmas gifts, but can we ever be good enough to get ourselves right with God? No matter how much we try to do the right thing, and avoid doing the wrong thing, we still manage to miss the mark.

Sherlock: Don’t worry dear Watson, as long as our good things outweigh our bad things, we will be fine.

Watson: That might work with Santa, but since God is perfect, and where I come from we would use the word “holy,” then nothing but perfection will measure up. Do you know any perfect people?

Sherlock: Right enough, with my vast knowledge of human nature, I cannot think of ever working with a perfect person, though I myself come close of course. So if we can not make peace with God through religion, how can we ever make peace with God?

Watson: I think I know of some people that can help.

Some sheep run across the puppet stage, puppeteers make sheep noises, Enter Shepherd(s) in a rush

Sherlock: Shepherds in a hurry? Where are you going?

Shepherd: We are on our way to tell people about the baby!

Sherlock: Baby? What baby?

Shepherd: The baby the prophets told us about, especially Isaiah when he said “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

A prince of peace? I am looking for peace. And how did you know this baby had been born?

Shepherd: An angel told us. He said “Do not be afraid”

Sherlock: (interrupting) That figures. I know what it is like to be scared by an angel.

Shepherd: but then the angel said “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 Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you:you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there were all these angels, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!” It was epic!

Sherlock: So this Prince of Peace will bring peace?

Shepherd: Yes, that is what the Bible teaches.

Sherlock: And what did you do to deserve this?

Shepherd: Deserve what?

Sherlock: Deserve the opportunity to meet this Prince of Peace?

Shepherd: Well, nothing. In fact when the angel first appeared we were scared because we knew we didn’t deserve to be in the presence of angels, never mind the Lord himself. We thought we were in trouble!

Sherlock: But you must be very religious.

Shepherd: Well no, in fact our work with the animals makes us unclean and unfit for the religious stuff.

Sherlock: But you were invited to see this Prince of Peace?

Shepherd: Yes, and that is the amazing thing. We didn’t deserve it. We didn’t earn it. But we were invited. We are at peace with God, not because of what we have done, but because of what He has done.

Sherlock: So if I am understanding this correctly, while we can never make peace with God, through this baby being born, God has made peace with us. How is that possible?

Watson: It is not just in being born, but also in dying for us, dying instead of us, taking all our sin upon himself. That is how he makes peace possible for us.

Sherlock: (pointing to the congregation) And so that is why these people have peace? I suppose you are going to tell me it is elementary?

Watson: Precisely, dear Sherlock.