We hear and sing “Joy to the World” even as we rush to finish “getting ready” for Christmas. What does it mean to be joyful when our to-do lists seem impossible to accomplish? How can we be joyful when there is so much bad news and suffering in our broken world?
It feels risky to be joyful. Moments of joy are so short-lived that we are tempted to put our trust in things that don’t last instead of waiting for real joy. But that fleeting emotion is just happiness and not real joy. The latest Christmas gifts wear out, break, or go out of style. But joy that comes from knowing the eternal, unconditional love of God never goes out of style. It’s for real and forever.
And here’s the secret. Dr. Brene Brown writes, “In our research we found that everyone who showed a deep capacity for joy had one thing in common: They practiced gratitude.
A wild heart can beat with gratitude and lean in to pure joy without denying the struggle in the world. It’s not always easy or comfortable-but what makes joy possible is a front made of love and a back built of courage.”
[light 3rd candle]
And so with God’s gift of a soft heart and strong back we boldly light the 3rd candle of Advent, the candle of Joy.
Let us pray: O God of compassion and joy, you have blessed us with the freedom to choose and the power to shift our attention from things that threaten our hope and peace to the deep faith and assurance of the joy you alone can give. You did not send Jesus to some idyllic beach resort but right into the heart of political oppression in Bethlehem. Help us to embrace the joy of this season by shifting our focus from the storms raging on the surface of life to the quiet and calm below the surface in the depths of your presence. By refreshing our spirits in the living waters of your eternal Being we will renew our faith to wait for the moments when you break into our crazy world and give the eternal gift of joy to the world. We pray for patience to practice gratitude so we are able to see and hear the good news. Amen
Northwest UMC, Columbus, OH