“Joy is an act of resistance against despair and its forces”
The first two weeks of advent .. Hope and Peace lead us to the present week Joy.. we are no longer hoping and seeking peace instead we are ready to embrace joy.. to celebrate the joy of the Lord. Jesus was born into a dark and lonely world .. a world that needed Him more than it realized. The little baby born in the manager brought something amazing to us.. The joy of the Lord.. This joy is our stronghold in times of trouble .. it is our refuge when we are drowning in a sea of sorrow.. it is our hiding place and our sanctuary. Joy is available to us because of His unending love and His generous heart..We are His and because of that we can rejoice in our trials and suffering.. knowing that He is for us and with us.
We are in a season of anticipation.. of waiting.. as we draw near to that day when we celebrate the birth of Christ. He came into the world as a tiny helpless baby and yet He was God. He came to set the captives free.. to release the world from the bondage of sin and death. As He was born, the air was full of Joy.. the world began to breathe again.. Finally!
We can rest.. it is finished. The joy that flooded the world on that day is remembered every year at Christmas time. We hear the songs on the radio and in stores.. “Joy to the World” Even those who do not understand the depth of these words.. feel the joy and celebrate His birth. His spirit remains here with us.. to guide us and direct our steps. He fills us and walks with us as we trust Him. Christmas is an opportunity to remember this.. to be reminded of His faithfulness and His presence in our lives. He is our hope, our peace and our Joy..
” I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” ( John 15:11)
His Kingdom Come website is currently running a series of advent devotionals. They are posting a new one each day until Christmas. This is the one that I wrote for today.. enjoy.
As we enter the season of advent, we can begin to prepare our hearts for the celebration of the Christmas season. Of course, in our materialistic culture it is always a great challenge to keep our focus as we resist the temptation to run around madly after the “ things of this world.” We have a choice and this is the right time to decide how we are going to spend this precious time.
As those who follow the Lord, this can be a very rich opportunity.. a time to prepare ourselves for a greater experience of His presence as we begin to focus on the Son of God in a more intentional way. Christmas is a consumer…
As the advent season unfolds..we are waiting…anticipating…. trusting and remembering. There are a number of things in my life that are very unsettled and I can’t do much about any of them. I have to wait and pray and keep asking for more faith.
The other morning I was listen to my favorite Christmas hymn ” Come o Come Emmanuel ” and looking out the window at the beauty of our area. Suddenly I felt like I was transported back to that time when the Jews were awaiting their Messiah. I felt a sense of joy and anticipation..something special was in the air and I could hardly wait to see what would happen next.
If only I had been alive back in that day.. to have walked on the earth when Jesus came. Imagine seeing Him and hearing Him. Maybe it was my Jewish genes acting up.. I felt such a longing to be near Him.
The moment passed and we went to church..there it was.. that song again.
“O come, O come, Emmanuel And ransom captive Israel That mourns in lonely exile here Until the Son of God appear Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel.”
So here we are 2000 years later..singing and waiting..longing for more of Him.
That is the title of a daily reading in God’s Message for Each Day by Eugene Peterson. This man has a gift when it comes to writing. The way He expresses thoughts and ideas never ceases to amaze me. Here’s the message that follows that title:
“Each morning we wake to a world…that is given by God. God shares who He is and what He makes, His love, and His salvation. He is not just maker of heaven and earth; He is not just the revealer of truth; He is not just architect of salvation.. He gives…
Where all is gift, I do not own things or persons and thus have to protect them. Therefore I do not have to be anxious. In a world of grace I do not live in laborious struggle trying to fashion a world that suits my needs and desires, hammering together a life out of the bits and pieces of scrap lumber that come my way. I do not live in anxious suspicion, nervous about what others might do to me, what others might think of me, I simply discover and receive.”
Isn’t that beautiful? I especially like the part where he talks about hammering a life togehter out of the bits and pieces.. Wow! Don’t we do that? It reminds me of how we try to live in our own small story instead of the larger story that God has in mind for us. We are incapable of imagining all the wonderful gifts that He has for us, our finite minds are unable to truly conceive of the goodness of our God.
Some thoughts for this advent season.. Let’s move forward to discover, receive, and anticipate all that He has planned for us.
“Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven”
I actually think every season is the busy season in our culture. However, this time of year tends to bring on even more busyness. It is in the air.. so much to do..so little time. As I caught myself rushing around the house this morning, I suddenly realized that I had no reason to be in a hurry. I have the whole day to accomplish the things on my list and even if I don’t..so what? Slow me down Lord.. help me to take my time..to realize that life is not meant to be a blur.
The reason I grapple with this is because so many years of my life were filled with constant activity of one kind or another. It became a way of life..survival.. move fast so I could get it all done before I collapse into bed at night. Things are different for me now and I want to keep them that way. I’m older and I have to move slower..my body can’t stand the faster pace.
There is an interesting thing that has happened in the midst of the slowing down, I feel like everyone around me is moving so fast.. how do I connect with them? They are busy and hurried and here I am with whole days that are just for me. Time to feel my own feelings..time to be still..time to rest..time to exercise..cook..read and write. Wow! I am blessed beyond measure. What an amazing gift God has given me.
I worked in Christian ministry for 30 years..it was wonderful and tiring. In this season my life is smaller and less demanding.. time to reflect and remember..time to give thanks for all He has given me. Every season is different and each has meaning for us if we embrace it.
As we continue to move through the season of Advent..there is at least one thing we all need in every season..Hope. We never outgrow the need for this. It is our nature to anticipate and long for all that He has for us. If you are busy..I pray that you can slow down long enough to thank Him and ask Him to renew your hope.. He will do it.
“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.”
Everything I am reading this week seems to direct me back to the word “longing.” It reminds me of my childhood and the deep desire I had for God. He was not acknowledged in my home but I knew He was real. The culture was different..more people openly acknowledged God in a way that has disappeared. This only deepened my longing for Him. I never heard the gospel and had no idea how to connect with this God, but my heart was being drawn by movies, music, and Christmas trees, something was happening that I could never quite understand.
He was pursuing me and I was longing for Him..looking back I can see how He planted seeds in my heart throughout the 29 years without Him. Finally we were introduced and I was free to live life fully knowing He loved me and wanted this connection as much as I did. Over 30 years have passed since that time and I still long for more of Him. Advent may be the season of longing, but our entire lives can be filled with that same desire..that same sense of anticipation.. as we live knowing that He is with us and His kingdom is here now.
We cannot see Him, but His fingerprints are unmistakable. As we look back we see how He has appeared over and over again in our lives..there are rescues, interventions, and miracles we experience in our daily lives. We need eyes that see, ears that hear, and hearts that remember.
My prayer for you is that this season increases your desire to grow closer to Him.. to see His mighty hand at work in our world. We all need that hope that only He can give. Let’s ask Him to help us live in the “already” and the “not yet”..to embrace this season as He prepares us more fully for the next. Our hope is in Him as we wait for all those things that He has prepared for us.. both in this world and the next.
“I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the Lord. With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God.”
I grew up knowing absolutely nothing about the church calendar. This is no suprise considering I was raised by Jewish atheists who did not attend any religious services. The surprise is that even after I became a believer…over 30 years ago.. I still learned almost nothing about the church calendar. All that is beginning to change.
God is drawing me in a new direction and helping me discover the beauty of knowing the season we are in and embracing it fully. With help from my daughter I was introduced to two great resources..the Mosaic Bible and Living the Christian Year by Bobby Gross. Both of these books offer readings and scripture to enrich the seasons of the historical Christian church.
I wanted to pass these along to you..in case you are interested in taking this journey with me. We are sure to discover new insights and be encouraged in our faith as we travel on this road so well worn by those who have gone before us.
Here is a quote from the Mosaic Bible on one of my favorite topics. .longing and waiting.
“Waiting doesn’t resonate well in our culture. Our spending habits serve as one good example. Because we need it now, we rack up outlandish debts we have no plan for repaying. The Christian life is..and always has been..filled with waiting. ..it seems that God teaches us the most poignant lessons when we pay attention to the ways His kingdom is upside down from ours. Perhaps God wants us to feel strongly dissatisfied with the imperfections of our current state and long for what is to come.”
“Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days. The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses. Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy! The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon, as lovely as Mount Carmel or the plain of Sharon. There the Lord will display his glory, the splendor of our God. With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees. Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.’
And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy! Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the wasteland. The parched ground will become a pool, and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land. Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish where desert jackals once lived.”