Liminal Luminous

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Living well Spirituality

New Year Eve Sermon on Joy

This is the sermon I gave at my church on New Year’s Eve, or at least a pretty good version of it. I write sermons by talking to myself while out walking, writing out bullet points, then further refining while walking. At some point someone is going to catch me preaching to the trees. In order to share this I spoke from my bullet points into Dragon software. Then I edited the typos. As such this is not THE version I gave, but a pretty good version.


John 15:1-13
Galatians 5: 22-25

As this is New Year’s Eve and we are at church I am of course going to do the obvious and and talk about New Year’s resolutions.

So, who got a positive resolution? Which is to say they will do something, they are to achieve something?

What about anyone with a negative resolution – to stop doing this? .

And who got a Christmas gift relating to their New Year’s resolution?

Does anyone want to share?

In terms of neuroscience, which is the study of how we think and how our brains work, it shows that you are more likely to stick to a habit than to achieve a goal. This is because once you set your habit and it has stuck you no longer have to think about it, whereas goals tend to rely on willpower and it is for a set time.

It used to be that people said it took a month for a new habit to set in, but recent research shows that this is in fact, three months. So if things go wrong please don’t give up, but keep on trying. New habits are hard to set up, but easy to keep.

The other thing to think about is what can you do to make this into a daily practice, example I want to play the piano well. I really can’t put play the piano well on my daily to-do list, it’s too big, too scary and I’m never going to be able to achieve that. But I can play the piano for half an hour every day. That’s achievable. I can tick it off my to-do list.

The next thing you can do is think about stacking your habits, which means attaching your new habit onto existing habits. Example in the morning I get up, do my bathroom things, do yoga, prayer, and then piano practice. These three habits of yoga, prayer, and piano were all established one at a time. I created one new habit, yoga, and kept on doing it until it happens automatically. Then I added prayer, and finally piano.

The key trigger is what I have to do – get up and go and do my morning necessities and getting dressed.

This is so important – choosing one habit to focus on at a time.

So, can we think about, a habit, which will bring us closer to God? To be a joyful person.

In John 15 Jesus says that if we remain in him will be filled with his joy. In this chapter he explicitly tells us that we are his friends because he shares everything that God has shared with him. He then goes onto say that his command is to love one another and then our joy will be complete.

Being joyful and loving one another isn’t something you can tick off a to-do list on a daily basis, it’s certainly something I really struggle with.

Paul tells us in Galatians that one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is to be filled with joy, we’ve all been given this when we accepted the Holy Spirit into our lives.

There are other gifts that we were given too: love, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are all essentially synonyms, in other words they all pretty much mean the same as each other

Paul didn’t promise us a gift of the Holy Spirit to be power, wealth, success, but simple kindness.

Life is difficult, we all have difficulties to bear. There is much suffering around us. Jesus didn’t promise us that if we follow him our lives will be filled with material riches and nothing will ever go wrong. He asks us to be kind to each other, to love one another, and our reward will be joy.

So what can we do with this idea of being filled with joy that? If life is difficult, which it is, how can we stay tuned to joy and love?

We can break it down into daily habits. Can you pick one, or choose your own?

Every time something minor went wrong like really long queues, doctors running behind schedule, someone cutting me up when I was driving, I used to text my husband and tell him. This was spreading the misery. I’m not talking about sharing difficulties or talking through our problems or getting the help that we need, this was just everyday minor things that happen. Maybe we could let them go tell anyone.

Maybe we could try to smile at people when we walk past them.

Find something to say everyone we meet, like the postman when they knock at the door, a person who is at the checkout, or if you’re like me other dog walkers.

At the end of the day maybe we can take a few minutes to review our actions in the day, and ask was I acting with love, kindness or did I not. Maybe take the time to confess to Jesus and asked for help to do it better next time.

Jesus was powered by joy, rather than fear or mistrust, even though he not only knew that he was going to die how he was going to die.

Nearly every single song we sing in church at this time of year are carols and have the word joy in them, this is a time to celebrate, we’re celebrating Jesus’s birth, because he brings us joy and the Holy Spirit gives at these gifts of kindness, love, joy et cetera.

So I challenge you can you make your New Year’s resolution to be filled with joy, like Jesus promised? TCreate daily habits which will help you be a more joyful person by loving other people, by being kind to other people. Jesus wants us all to be more like him, he has called us to be his friends, to live our lives like him, in other words to be filled with joy.


This sermon was inspired by Pen Wilcock’s 52 Wisdom Stories – I explain a little more about my thinking here. It’s funny how all this things come into our brain and compost down into something else. 

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