Sunday, December 13, 2015

Key to our Joy

A few weeks ago a friend of mine wrote on her blog about the discipline of shaping our deep feelings and emotions (especially joy) to align with God’s truth. If I am honest, joy is the hardest of these four themes (Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love) for me to grasp in my own life. I tend to fall on the realist side of things far too often to count joy as one of my emotions. And yet, Advent is the best time to learn or re-learn the meaning of joy. Because it is not the same as happiness. There is a depth about joy that reaches deeper into the crevices of our mind and the direction of our heart.

I love finding quotes and poems and hymns written especially for Advent. But this whole year I have been trying to soak myself in these truths, so that maybe, just maybe they’ll begin to sink in. The sound bites of Advent are pictures of why Jesus came to earth in the first place. One pastor recently wrote on his church’s Advent blog, Jesus, our Immanuel, reveals that God is with us, breaking into our lives and breaking us free from the chains of selfishness, ingratitude, and our strivings to escape our fears and failures. Jesus is our hope, our key to joy and peace, not only during this season of Advent, but every day we live, move, and wonder who we are and why we're here. ... "

From Sunday school days we are taught that Jesus is the key our joy. But what does this look like? What did this look like in the months and weeks leading up to Jesus’ birth? I don’t have a fully formed answer yet, myself. Here are some scripture and quotes to point us in the right direction:

"Joy to the world,
The Lord has come.
Let earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare Him room."
– Isaac Watts

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10

When they [the Magi] saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:10-11

“. . .  And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.Nehemiah 8:10

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” James 1:12

“It was not until grief became a part of my story that I realized that joy is not simply an expression, but an attitude and acknowledgment of the deep peace of knowing a Savior.” from the Page CXVI Blog (there's a must-list-to song there as well).

“I know my supreme need is joy in God and I know I can't experience deep joy in God until I deeply trust in God. ... If fear keeps our lives small, does a life that receives all of God in this moment grow large, too?"  Ann Voskamp

I’ll end with a decidedly Biblical definition of joy, by Kay Warren of Saddleback Church: 
“Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.” 

Many of the characters in the Christmas story experienced joy, not because of their circumstances, but in spite of them. They pave the way.

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