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Treasure Chest


Series: Advent

Category: 2018 Sermons

Passage: Psalm 86:9-12

Speaker: Nicole Trotter

You’re all familiar with Ted Talks I’m sure, but just in case, TED Talks, more or less, is a series of presentations. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, but the topics have been expanded and now it seems there’s a Ted talk for everything….so while I was out walking the dog and contemplating joy, (our Advent theme for the week) I decided to take my chances and ask Siri if there was a Ted Talk on Joy…and lo and Behold there was one titled, Where Joy Hides and How to Find it. Now the title alone sent me into a kind of cynicism as though anyone needs to be told where Joy hides, it’s all around us, for goodness sake, we just need to open our eyes.

But because poor Diego hadn’t been walked in a while, I listened and was pleasantly surprised when I heard a few things. 

First, before I listened here is what I’ve come to understand about joy…That there’s a difference between Joy and Happiness. Happiness is something our culture is pretty obsessed with pursuing. One could argue it’s become commercialized and monetized through books, consultants, life coaches, and spas… 

But not so much with joy, which I believe to be a gift. And so when I heard this Ted Talk I was pleased that the speaker saw it this way as well. Her name is Ingrid Fetell lee and she’s a designer. She distinguishes happiness from joy this way... 

...broadly speaking, when psychologists use the word joy, what they mean is an intense, momentary experience of positive emotion -- one that makes us smile and laugh and feel like we want to jump up and down. And this is actually a technical thing. That feeling of wanting to jump up and down is one of the ways that scientists measure joy. It's different than happiness, which measures how good we feel over time. Joy is about feeling good in the moment, right now. And this was interesting to me because as a culture, we are obsessed with the pursuit of happiness, and yet in the process, we(tend to) overlook joy.[1]

So Ingrid set out on a quest to discover where joy comes from and how to access joy in the world from a designer’s point of view, discovering through research that architecturally speaking….She says… round things ... pops of bright color ... symmetrical shapes ... a sense of abundance and multiplicity ... (brought on)a feeling of lightness or elevation. When I saw it this way, I realized that though the feeling of joy is mysterious and elusive, we can access it through tangible, physical attributes, or what designers call aesthetics, a word that comes from the same root as the Greek word "aísthanomai," which means, "I feel," "I sense," "I perceive.” 

In her research on joy she discovered…

(that) neuroscientists have studied this, too. They put people into MRI machines, and they showed them pictures of angular objects and round ones. And what they found is that the amygdala, a part of the brain associated in part with fear and anxiety, lit up when people looked at angular objects, but not when they looked at the round ones. They speculate that because angles in nature are often associated with objects that might be dangerous to us, that we evolved an unconscious sense of caution around these shapes, whereas curves set us at ease.

She goes on to show screen after screen of examples of architecture from our world that uses harsh angles, institutions, office buildings, nursing homes, hospitals, schools… to name just a few.

The good news is that there are architects all over the world with new designs of rounded buildings, bright colors, what we might call playful, which is cultivating joy through aesthetics. 

She ends her talk saying this- 

Each moment of joy is small, but over time, they add up to more than the sum of their parts. And so maybe instead of chasing after happiness, what we should be doing is embracing joy and finding ways to put ourselves in the path of it more often. Deep within us, we all have this impulse to seek out joy in our surroundings. And we have it for a reason. Joy isn't some superfluous extra. It's directly connected to our fundamental instinct for survival. On the most basic level, the drive toward joy is the drive toward life. 

Now we probably don’t need a Ted Talk to tell us joy and life are synonymous. All we have to do is watch a baby belly laugh (as we did during the children’s time) video) to know that joy and life are synonymous.

And just as life itself is a gift, so too is joy. Its not something we can purchase or work our way into, but something we can be more readily open to receiving, with eyes to see, ears to hear and arms to embrace joy. And here it is Advent, with an entire Sunday dedicated to this word…which when you carry it around for long enough….just thinking about it, while walking the dog, or doing the dishes, life becomes a prayer for joy and joy becomes a prayer for life….even and maybe especially during Advent, when we are called to prepare our hearts for the birth of light in darkness….joy shows up miraculously in the holy rising of the sun each day, if we have hearts to know it, hearts to treasure it, here where our hearts reside, in our chest, we hold our very own treasure chests, not unlike the cigar boxes or tins of our youth that we would carry around as children, which acted as vessels for small objects we wanted to keep safe and treasure. 


In our Scripture this morning the psalmist, writes…. 

Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart to revere your name.

 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
 and I will glorify your name forever.

….Christmas deserves our whole heart…a treasure chest of gifts that we've collected this Advent. 

In those verses, the Psalmist moves from asking to affirming that they’ve received what they just asked for….From teach me to I thank you…. From asking to affirming…

Sometimes, it’s that easy...sometimes it’s not. Most of the time it’s an ever cycling journey of asking and receiving and asking again. 


For the shepherds in our second reading, I imagine it was a journey…from long nights in the dark with nothing but sheep and perhaps an old faithful shepherding dog of some kind to keep him company…. life that was difficult to say the least. To make that journey from wherever they were to Bethlehem, also must not have come easily, but they walked, and they followed light, to witness the birth of a baby born for them….and we are called together this Advent to make that same journey.

To walk as a child of the light….I sent you those lyrics to a hymn in my weekly email. I’ve asked so many of you if you knew the hymn and to my surprise, the answer was no… 

And I want to share it with you now as a way to close…. 

The lyrics are simple, but they are a reflection of what we do this advent…what we do as shepherds, how we live as the Psalmist sings….

The lyrics-

I want to walk as a child of light.
I want to follow Jesus.
God set the stars to give light to the world. 
The star in my life is Jesus.

In him there is no darkness at all. 
The night and the day are both alike. 
The lamb is the light of the city of God.
Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.

(here’s the Concordia choir singing…what I’ve just read…I invite you to close your eyes to listen..)

Scripture tells us….Mary …..treasured all the words spoken by these shepherds who had journeyed to be with her child… 

What does it mean to treasure the journey of all who show up to witness this birth of this baby…You have shown up here, the person next to you has shown up here, to prepare as we journey together through this life which brings us plenty of darkness… to navigate through the here of now…  with the light of Jesus guiding us together, That is to receive joy….because Joy and life are synonymous. 

Let us pray….as though these words were your own…

I want to walk as a child of light.
I want to follow Jesus.
God set the stars to give light to the world. 
The star in my life is Jesus.

In him there is no darkness at all. 
The night and the day are both alike. 
The lamb is the light of the city of God.
Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.