Encounter: Slowly read through Matthew 24 in The Passion Translation and one other version. Jesus’ disciples were curious about the future. Here Jesus is speaking about the fall of Jerusalem and persecution of Christians. Underline what Jesus describes that seems to reflect what is occurring in our world today. Begin to reflect on Jesus’ words, don’t panic or give in to your fears…What JOY and blessing will come to that faithful servant when the master comes home to find him serving with excellence!
I finally found it! At the bottom of a storage box packed away in our shed, it appeared almost like a message from a long-lost friend, JOY! This is one of my favorite wreaths to hang on the front of our house each year because it feels like a challenge and I always like a good challenge.
The first three weeks of Advent with its message of peace, hope and love seem to be somewhat attainable at times. But JOY?! The possibility of JOY is mocked by a world in which depression is at an all-time high and we remain anxious due to a pandemic we thought would be over by now and whose effect is insurmountable.
And there it was, my JOY wreath. Glowing even brighter this year reminding me of the only gift that will continue to be unwrapped and even more amazing…everlasting.
This will always matter because, while we wait for Christ to come again, while we wait for the healing, while we wait for the restoration of all things, we don’t have to despair. God has given us a joy that no one can take away. No matter what happens in this dark world, we can experience His light. Like the shepherds, we have been given the gift of light even in the darkest and longest night. But where is it for us?
Joy can be felt within us as a gift of the Holy Spirit so we can receive the true revelation of the reality of Jesus in His Word and in His works. Joy is what we are celebrating this last of Advent. Joy is what we are asking God to bring to our souls, not in a box under the tree. Because what we really need for Christmas this year folks is strength and our Creator is telling us where to find it. THE JOY OF THE LORD IS YOUR STRENGTH!
The good news of Jesus’ birth has the power to bring us great joy this Christmas season. Our joy will not be dependent on what is going on in our lives, in our world, or the people that we are with. It doesn’t depend on whether we have enough gifts under the tree. No earthly thing can ever give us complete joy. Our joy comes from the gift of Jesus. That joy that flooded the hearts of the shepherds, the angels, the wise men, and Mary and Joseph is the JOY available to us when we open our hearts to our Savior King!
As we come upon the final week of Advent, we are relieved to get to the Joy and to see the traditional pink candle lit during worship. This message of great JOY is daring us to have JOY, even in the dark!
Even if you feel alone, your relationships struggling, your health is a challenge, your bank account is empty and there is a future you can’t see, let us hear the words of our Savior, …hold your hope firmly to the end and you will experience life and deliverance, because through it all, the good news of heaven’s kingdom will be proclaimed all over the world, providing every nation with a demonstration of the reality of God…What joy and blessing will come to that faithful servant when the master comes home to find him serving with excellence!
Serving Joy-fully with You,
REFLECT: The angel brought “good tidings of great joy” to the shepherds (see Luke 2:10). The wise men, when they saw the star, “rejoiced with exceeding great joy” (see Matthew 2:10).
The Joy candle It is also known as the Shepherd Candle to highlight the joy the shepherds experienced when they received the good news about Christ’s birth (Luke 2:8-20). During the middle of the night, the darkest time, the shepherds encountered angels. What has been your darkest time? Can you imagine God saying to you, “Do not fear, for I bring you Good News…” What does this Good News of Jesus bring to your dark situation.
ENCOURAGE: Scrooge finally found JOY when he began to share his life, love and resources with others. With the poor and also with his family. Ask God to show you how your future can change by bringing joy and encouragement to a family member or touch someone’s life who need a hand up.
GATHER: Discuss these scriptures with your small group and how they give you a new perspective of JOY!
· God fills us with joy (Romans 15:13). We cannot will ourselves to experience joy. It comes from God alone.
· It’s a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). We experience more joy when we spend time with God. We have to keep in mind that joy only comes from God, but when we spend more time with him, we allow him to fill us with it.
· No one can take joy from us (John 16:22). Given to us by God himself, no one has the ability to rob us of our joy. No matter what circumstances we encounter, no one can take this away.
· Joy rests in things from God such as salvation and righteousness (Psalm 51:12).