Advent, from the Latin word adventus meaning “arrival,” is the four – week period prior to Christmas Day when we watch, behold, prepare, and rejoice in the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The past year has seen the increase of world-wide anxiety, stress, hopelessness. We need the Advent focus on hope, joy, peace, and love more than ever. I pray that these devotionals, posted on the four Mondays before Christmas, will help us all focus the arrival of Jesus among us, the proof of God’s love and care for each of us.
THE ARRIVAL OF JOY Romans 14:17 and Romans 15:13 (MSG)
“God’s kingdom isn’t a matter of what you put in your stomach, for goodness’ sake. It’s what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you’ll kill two birds with one stone: pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you.”
“Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope.”
If there were ever a time that the world needed joy it is now! Joy is hard to find in 2016. In fact, nowadays it almost seems insensitive to say you are happy with your life. However, without joy a Christian can be come rigid, insensitive and even mean-spirited.
In his letter to the Christians in Rome, Paul recognizes that joy is a gift: God will set our lives right, put our lives together, and complete the task with joy. I’m discovering that this gift of God is not just a flickering feeling. Joy is a muscle that we can choose to exercise. Tiny moments of joy break through our thought processes all through the day – if we are not too occupied with a screen to let them. Every little thrill of joy, once recognized and appreciated, adds oomph to the next blessing of joy.
A small Christmas tree in our apartment stands on a table just inside the patio door lead-ing to our balcony. Every so often when I am sitting in that room, I look up and see the lights of the tree as if it were the first time – and experience joy. Beloved Christmas carols like Joy to the World fill my heart with. . . yes, joy. I receive a phone call from my son who lives hundreds of miles away and joy blooms again. Advent joy arrives just in time to light the world’s darkness and fill our hearts.
Paul encourages us to let the “God of green hope” fill us up with joy and peace and the life-giving energy of the Spirit. The result will be hope. Our spiritual lives seem to be circular: like in a wreath or a vine, the branches of hope, peace, joy and love intertwine to give us strength and beauty in the living of our days. Let’s make the best of our heightened awareness of this opportunity during Advent.