Are you happy with this generation
Sermon 3rd Advent “Are you happy?” (Jn 1: 6-8.19-28)
Pastor Sven Johannsen, Lohr
Dear sisters and brothers
“Are you happy?” I could well understand if you answer, at least in silence: “This is not the best time to ask the question. Ask me again in six months! "
I could not only understand this attitude very well, it would also correspond to what two studies and surveys of the last few days have shown about general feelings. The Allensbach Institute for Demoscopy announced at the beginning of the month that the “middle generation” is in a low mood. Many people have run out of optimism. After the Glücksatlas 2019 found that Germans are getting happier and happier, the experiences of the last few months have sapped our nerves tremendously. The luck and hope resources seem to have been used up. Only 22% of the people in this generation look hopefully into the coming months and every second German feels much worse than before the crisis. The worst thing for many is that there is no end to be seen. Politics is not exactly the best encouragement at the moment.
Last week, the universities of Hildesheim and Frankfurt presented the results of their second survey of adolescents and young adults during the Corona period. 7,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 30 were interviewed and a large number complained about loneliness while studying and difficult conditions when finishing school or studying. With all the cheering of digital learning, young people at school or at university need the exchange for encouragement and motivation. Loneliness is not just a problem for the older generation these days.
So the signs are not pointing towards particularly happy times.
And yet I stick to the question "Are you happy?"
Incidentally, the author and freelance journalist Christoph Wöhrle provided them to his sister, who is really a sister, i.e. religious woman in Würzburg. In a conversation with his 16-year-old sister, the renowned author asks the weekly newspaper Die ZEIT why she entered an order and whether she is really happy now. (See Die Zeit, Christ und Welt 50/2020)
Elisabeth Wöhrle, Franciscan, spiritual guide and employee at the KHG Würzburg, tells the younger brother what motivated her to choose this path. Her basic question, which led to the decision to become a religious, she describes as follows:
“At one point in my life I asked myself: What will be left of my life if I think about my work? If I was honest with myself, it opened a huge gap in me. A gap that asked for more depth. "
I believe that many of us can understand that statement. Who are we if you ignore our work, by which I mean not only our professional activities, but also what we do in the household, in the family, in voluntary work? People who are entering the retirement phase in particular feel how agonizing the question can be. There must be more depth in my life than what I can show in terms of successes and accomplishments.
Her brother asks Sister Elisabeth: "Are you happy today?"
And she doesn't answer exuberantly at all, but rather deliberately:
“Overall, I have the feeling that I have found a good place for myself. I feel at home in my life as a Franciscan and I like to live in my community. "
Is the answer “I have found my place” sufficient to the question “are you happy?”? I believe that it is actually the most important realization for our lives that we have found our place, where we belong and where we are rooted in all vicissitudes and storms. That is not always the podium, often more like the broom closet, but we know that we are accepted there and that we are needed.
Faith also wants to help us find its place in life. Sister Elisabeth says to her brother: “There is a bigger context in my life. A deeper reason that carries me through crises. "
I am convinced that this attitude also opens up the deeper meaning of this third Advent, which we call "Gaudete", "Rejoice". In his oldest known letter, the apostle Paul calls on the congregation in Thessalónich: “Rejoice at all times! Pray without ceasing! Thanks for everything; because that is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. ”But above all:“ Do not extinguish the spirit! ”This is the key to happiness even in times of unhappiness. The young Christian community in northern Greece experiences exactly such times: After Paul preaches the Gospel, they become outsiders in their environment. The Greeks ridiculed them as Jewish eccentrics, and the synagogue suspiciously marginalized them as those who think differently. Young Christians have endured all of this so far because they were convinced that the joyous return of Christ was imminent. But now they have been waiting for a long time. The years pass and nothing happens. The mind gets tired. But Paul reminds them of the origin of their joy, their faith in Christ and the happy assurance of salvation that they bear.
John, too, is a happy person in this sense, although his story takes a rather unfortunate course.
He really wasn't lucky. At some point he falls into the clutches of the mighty. The story is known to us: Salome, the daughter of Herodias, who hates John, dances so enchantingly in front of the ruler Herod Antipas that he grants her every wish. At the advice of her mother, she will want the Baptist's head.
So a pretty unfortunate fate. But that would be the wrong way of looking at it. John found his place in his life and history with God. He appears self-confident and confidently proclaims without hesitation: "I am the voice of the caller in the desert" He is not the actual Messiah, he is just the forerunner. But John recognized this as his place in his life in the desert and took it. “He wasn't the light. He should only bear witness for the light. " This is exactly his identity, which, as is often demanded today, allows him to realize himself. He reminds me of all the many employees of the church, full-time and voluntary, who work zealously and joyfully without portraying themselves as saviors, as many a pastor who is extremely effective in the media believes he is doing, who likes to give the impression that only with him the church is human and open.
Today's saint, Luzia, also fulfilled her identity as a witness. At the turn of the third to the fourth century, in the course of the persecution of Christians, she became a luminous figure of hope for people in Syracuse, who helped selflessly and not only spreads light with her creativity. She loves Christ in people and is not afraid of death. This is the big difference to religious fanatics, who today believe by suicide bombings that they are doing their God a service. They hate people and believe that killing leads to paradise. Luzia and other martyrs of the Church were not driven by a longing for death, they loved the living people, but she was also not afraid of the ultimate consequence. Therefore, their life does not end in misfortune. They found the context in which their life, as short as it often was, could be happy. And they lived from the trust that God would not let them down in their death either.
"Rejoice at any time" - that is not an optimism of purpose, but the attitude of a person whose life has been successful.
"Are you happy", we too may be asked.
Wilhelm Schmid, philosopher and often referred to as a “happiness researcher” because of his books, believes that the subject of “happiness” is overrated. In the German language, the word "Glück" has a lot to do with "coincidence". For us, luck is usually a "happy and unexpected coincidence", that is, the famous lottery win that you cannot plan for. In French, according to Schmid, the word “Le Bonheur” means the “good hour”, ie a period of time that begins and ends. (See W. Schmid; Glück, everything you need to know about it and why it is not the most important thing in life. Inselverlag 2007)
There are three types of happiness for him:
- The Chance luckwhich is an essential part of happiness. Most of it, not even our existence, can really be planned. We too are ultimately a happy coincidence if one follows biology.
- The Feel-good happiness: It is characterized by experiences such as success, fun, a fulfilling job. Actually, our expectation of a Merry Christmas is also the hope of happiness, some nice days with the family. It's not lasting happiness. The vacation is over. The work leads to retirement. The holiday joy can break quickly, as we currently fear.
- The lucktheAbundance: Life consists of joy and pain, success and failure - only those who accept this as the whole of life can experience the fullness of happiness.
It might sound like a paradox: “We don't have to be lucky all the time to be happy.” For Schmid, it is much more important to experience meaning in life. And meaning always arises in life where there are relationships. He is open whether this relationship is with humans, animals, art, nature or God. "A strong relationship," says Schmid, "holds us in place even when we are not happy."
On this Sunday in Advent we may be concerned with the question: Do you have such relationships that support you, even if the next few weeks may be very stressful and difficult? Yes? Then you can answer the question “Are you happy?” “Yes, it's me? I am about to savor the abundance of happiness because I have my place in life and I know who I am for God and people. Amen.
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