Joy (Week 3 of Advent)

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Open up with the discussion about Songs and how they bring up emotions and memories.
Like this one .......
Cannon in D - Wedding march
Pomp and Circumstance - Graduation march
We are the Champions - Queen
Sweet Home Alabama - Lynyrd Skynyrd
For a lot of people, songs bring about good or wonderful (Special) memories .....
But for others, such musical memories might be difficult, bringing to mind challenging times—but hopefully they are mostly reminders of joyous occasions.
Christmas is one of those times when music can bring to mind our memories of the past, whether good or bad.
So it is fitting that during the Advent week of joy, we look at Psalm 126, which is a psalm of remembrance for the people to remember the source of their joy—Yahweh.
(Have people stand)
Psalm 126A Song of Ascents. When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad. Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negeb! Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.
1. “Psalms of ascent” were intended to provoke collective memory.
(Psalm 120-134) The fifteen psalms to which this title is superscripted give no hint as to the “why” of this title, or in what circumstances the psalms were sung.
Various ideas have been suggested.
a. One popular belief is that these “psalms of ascent” were sung by pilgrims traveling up to Jerusalem for annual feasts, which would mean these psalms were associated with specific times of year.
b. Rabbi known as Rashi (lived AD 1040–1105), suggested that Levites sang these fifteen psalms while ascending the fifteen temple steps from the court of Israel (where the men gathered) to the women’s court above.
The Talmud, which is a collection of rabbinic notes on the second-century Jewish Oral traditions known as the Mishnah, suggests this took place at the time of the Sukkot festival.
Lending some weight to this possibility is that ma‛ălôt in other contexts means “steps.” Thus, śîr hamma‛ălôt could mean “Song of the Steps.”
Whatever the case may be, what is evident is the “Psalms of ascent” reminded the people of God’s faithfulness in both the distant and the more recent past.
2. Music and memory are strongly connected.
a. Our knowledge of the connection between music and memory is why we use songs to teach children things we want them to remember. (I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart ......)
b Good and bad memories can be evoked by music, as well as different eras of our lives.
c. Some studies are even showing a connection between music and healthier aging.
There is a documentary on Amazon Prime called Alive Inside that explores the connections between music and memory in Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.
The results have been a realization that music can often cause people with memory-related diseases to “come alive” or “rediscover their identity,” as the documentarian put it after watching people’s demeanor physically change when they listened to familiar music from their past.
d. Music is part of church liturgy for many of these same reasons. We learn a lot of theology (for good or ill!) through music.
Think about it ......
i. What are the first songs you remember from church services?
Are there songs you gravitate toward more than others?
Do you sing particular songs during times of personal hardship?
ii. We remember through music.
The songs of Christmas reminds us of Christ’s coming.
The songs of Easter remind us of Christ’s resurrection.
We remember loved ones with funeral music.
e. Psalm 126 and the other “psalms of ascent” are connected to a communal memory.
Every time they hear this song, they remember what God did in the past.
3. Remembering the past is meant to help us remember forward.
a. While Psalm 126 is a song of remembrance, it isn’t supposed to be static.
It should help the people look forward.
The idea is that looking back at where God has been faithful kindles the hope that God will be faithful again in the future.
b. Advent is a season of remembering forward.
We look back at God’s coming in order to anticipate God’s return.
We look at the faithfulness of God in the past, trusting that God will be faithful again.
We look to the past with an eye on the promises of God for the future.
c. There is joy in remembering forward because of the great things God has done for us before, the great things we know God is doing now, and the great things we know God is going to do in the future.
d. This entire psalm is about recalling the greatness and faithfulness of God and the trust that God will continue to be faithful in the future.
(Have Zach and the Praise Team come back up)
The music of the season conjures up memories for us.
Some might not be good memories, and others might be hard, but hopefully we also have some great memories of Christmases past.
But even if our memories are difficult this time of year, even if we are in the stage of weeping, we can look back and remember the faithfulness of God in the past and trust that God is faithful now and will be faithful again.
Just like the children of God, we may only have seeds in our hands now, but we trust that there will be a harvest.
We remember forward, trusting that God will continue to be faithful, just as God was so many years ago when taking on humanity for us.
We sing the songs of lament and joy, hope and promise, that we might collectively remember a God who is always faithful.
Next week we will be looking at “Peace”
But this morning lets end our time together lifting up our voices in remembrance of the Joy of God!
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