Earlier this year, we were going through a really tough season of life. It seems easy to brush it off – nothing externally was necessarily going wrong. Our health was fine, we had a home to live in, we had some friends and a good sense of community. But it felt like we were drowning in our mid-twenties, stumbling to find our footing and shape a life called by God and formed by Him. There were many days I woke up, uncertain of work or school or where I was headed, and I did not feel happy. I didn’t want to get out of bed and all I had to sustain me, to give me hope and peace of God’s sovereignty and promises was His Word. I poured myself into scripture and proclaimed His truths over my life.
And you know what I found? I found joy. It wasn’t an overwhelming exuberance for life or even a lot of laughter and good times. But I found joy and peace and hope through God’s promises, joy and peace and hope because it was not up to me to solve or fix or force my way into a new life.
This week is the third week of advent, a season that marks off the four weeks leading up to Christmas by waiting and yearning for Jesus to come as the promised Savior. This week we are called to look at the theme of joy.
And perhaps I’m becoming a broken record around here, but I deeply believe these themes of advent – hope, peace, joy, love – are possible not because of our own strength or willpower or fight, but because of God. Because of God’s deep love and compassion on us, because of His grace and forgiveness and love, because He sent His only Son to this earth to live amongst us, to walk with us, to die on our behalf.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
James 1:2 – 3
Joy isn’t found in external circumstances, in a good day at work, in a Christmas bonus or in finding that perfect gift for your spouse. It isn’t dependent on a smooth time running errands, on sticking to your monthly budget, or in your kids being perfectly obedient. It is actually far from that.
Joy is not about us – it is about who Jesus is and what He did here on earth and in His death and resurrection.
When things feel tough or unjoyous, James tells us to actually rejoice because we are growing deep roots, deep, unshakable roots.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Joy is found through those deep roots and through God – the God of hope filling us with joy and peace as we trust in Him. When life feels tumultuous and not good, when happiness feels miles and miles away, we can embrace joy, we can receive joy, we can walk in joy, as we trust in God. Because He is good, He is faithful, He is loving.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
I love “O Holy Night” – it is one of my most favorite Christmas songs and always has been. But it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that the above line stopped me in my tracks. In our weariness, in our despair, in our brokenness, we can rejoice (that is – respond with joy) because Jesus Christ our Savior came to earth as a baby.
A Prayer for the Third Sunday of Advent
(taken from the Book of Common Prayer)
Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
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