third advent reflection:

JOY

Take a moment to recall a time when you have been truly joyful.

What was happening? Who were you with?
What was the cause of your joy?

There are a number of Bible words translated as “joy” – what makes them interesting is noticing the kinds of things that bring happiness and also how “joy” is a key theme that runs through the whole story of the Bible.

Before continuing with today’s reflection, watch the following video from The Bible Project’s Advent Word Series:

Let’s think about some of the sources of joy in the Bible.

Joy is found in the beautiful and good things of life, like growing flocks or an abundant harvest on the hills. One poet said that a good bottle of wine is Gods gift “to bring joy to people’s hearts.” People find joy at a wedding or in their children. There’s even a Hebrew proverb that compares the joy that perfume brings to your nose with the joy a good friend brings to your heart.

If you have one available, pick and smell a flower, or imagine smelling this one.

As you smell its fragrance, think of a good friend. Remember the laughter you’ve shared, and the good times you’ve had.

Human history isn’t just a joy-fest – we live in a world that’s been corrupted by our own selfishness. It’s marked by death and loss, and this is where God’s story offers a unique perspective on joy. Joy is an attitude God’s people adopt, not because of happy circumstances, but because of their hope in God’s love and promises.

This was true for the Israelites when they wandered in the wilderness – rejoicing when they were most vulnerable.

They practiced a “joy in the wilderness”.

This rejoicing was a way of saying that the joy of God’s people is not determined by their struggles but by their future destiny.

It was the same when they suffered under the oppression of foreign empires. The prophet Isaiah wrote of a promised Deliverer and said of this time: “those redeemed by the Lord will return to Zion with glad shouts, with eternal joy crowning there heads; happiness and joy will overtake them.” While the Israelites waited for the promised one, they chose joy to anticipate their future redemption.

Take a moment to smell the aroma of your flower once more.

As you do, consider this amazing truth…

God thinks of you as His friend. When He considers who you are to Him, it brings joy to His heart.

It is significant that when Jesus was born, it was announced as “good news that brings great joy.” We’re told that Jesus Himself “rejoiced and gave thanks to God His Father when He began to announce the Kingdom of God. He taught His followers the same “joy in the wilderness” saying, “when people reject and persecute you for following Me, rejoice, be very glad, because great is your reward in heaven.”

The apostle Paul also practiced joy in the wilderness. When he was in prison, he could say that he’s chosen joy even if he gets executed. He called this the “joy of faith.” He believed it was a gift of God’s Spirit, a sign that Jesus’ presence is with you, inspiring hope in the midst of hardship.

There is no doubt that our experience of the world can be grief-stricken and dark, but God’s Story tells us that darkness does not have the final say.

Real joy is a profound decision of faith and hope in the power of Jesus’ own life and love.


Something to prayerfully consider this week:

As you think about your life or your world, what does it look like for you to ‘choose joy’ this Christmas?

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