Advent Week 3 – The Candle of Joy

Joy (Week 3 – Dec 13)

Isaiah 7:10-17, Isaiah 62, Luke 1:26-56, Revelation 7:1-12, 12:10-12, 19:1-9

As people who put our hope in God’s love and promises, we are called to adopt an attitude of joy.  It is in joy we find the ability to anticipate the future within our present reality. But this is, admittedly, incredibly challenging to carry out because sometimes joy is really hard to hold onto when everyday we are faced with uncertainty, division, and the reality of injustice and of oppression. When a sense of helplessness and lack of control threaten to overwhelm the joy we hold onto can sometimes feel like it is slipping through our fingers. Joy is often confused with happiness, but unlike happiness it is not dependent on our circumstances. Happiness, bound by circumstantial feelings, is temporary. Joy is crucial to our faith and ability to trust God through our present grief and uncertainty of what the future holds.

Where do we find sustaining joy? 

We find joy in the truth of what God has already done and in the anticipation of what is to come, in the expectancy of God’s faithfulness. Joy overtakes uncertainty when we see how God works in unexpected ways to fulfill promises. Israel found joy in the promise of redemption that is woven throughout the words of Isaiah despite their present circumstance of destruction and exile. The promise in Isaiah 7:14 of God intervening for the redemption of Israel is echoed in Luke’s narrative of Jesus’ coming as the Son of God, Immanuel, God with us, through the birth of a virgin.

Joy is a sign of Jesus’ presence, which brings hope.

It is a gift we choose in faith. No one thought the longed for Messiah would come as a baby, not even Mary. She is bewildered, finding it difficult to grasp the weight of the implications of the words of the angel so she visits her cousin, Elizabeth. At the presence of the Messiah in Mary’s womb, Elizabeth experiences the joy his presence causes within her own womb. This experience helps Mary choose in faith the joy of her own mystifying reality as the mother of the promised Messiah who will bring redemption to Israel.

We choose joy in our present circumstances by finding joy in the Messiah, who was divinely born into this world as an infant bringing the redemption of Israel, our own redemptive hope, to fruition. We find joy in our current circumstances by choosing to remember the joy that Jesus’ redemption of our lives brings, redemption that is only possible through his birth, death, and resurrection. 

It is this present joy, informed by the past faithfulness of God, that enables us to look forward to the future when our joy and redemption will be made complete as God’s people are saved from enemies, from death, from sin. Revelation continuously reminds us of this truth with the refrain that salvation can only come from the power of the Lamb, echoed several times throughout John’s vision after the defeat of significant threats to God’s people, in Revelation symbolized by the 144,000. It is with these defeats that we inch closer to the final, complete fulfillment of God’s Kingdom.

During this time of Advent, we are invited to choose joy that is rooted not in circumstance, but in the truth of the redemptive work of God has already done and will do. We remember the joy that came to our world when Jesus, the anticipated Messiah, became God with us and brought redemption. In our present challenges, we anticipate the returning King, who with “salvation and power and glory” will bring the hope of the fulfilled kingdom into being. We look around us at the brokenness of our world, and in the power of Jesus’ life and love, choose joy anyway.

Reflection:

What are ways you can choose joy this week?

What stands in the way of choosing joy?

Are there areas in your life where choosing joy is harder than others?

Action: 

This week keep watch for opportunities to choose joy when fear or frustration would be easier. 

Prayer:

Father, Son, and Spirit, today, in your name, I choose joy. I acknowledge the challenges and brokenness within my own life, in my community and the world. Yet, I choose to find joy in you and your truth. I choose to find joy in the birth of Jesus, his death and resurrection that has ushered your promised redemption and kingdom. I choose joy as I look to the future and long for the return of Jesus, for the defeat of evil and brokenness in the world. I choose to seek after joy that comes from the evidence of your salvation in my life. In the power of your name, I choose joy in spite of everything that tries to keep me from you. Amen.

Light the purple Hope & Love candles and the pink Joy candle..