This coming Sunday we will light the “JOY Candle” on the Advent wreath.
Christmas is a happy time for most of us: gatherings and gift-giving, singing and special services. Yes, Christmas is a happy time…for most of us.
But for some, Christmas is a tough time of the year. Sometimes we just have a hard time getting in the “holiday spirit.”
For some it’s the general anxiety in our society these days: gun violence and terrorist attacks have left us on edge -- we don’t feel safe.
For others this is the time of the year when we most acutely aware of the loss of loved ones; when we most miss those are supposed to be with us but no longer are.
For others it is the circumstances of life: difficulties at work, financial stress, problems at home, or too much on our plates, that leaves us feeling more like Scrooge than Santa!
But I would remind you we do not light the HAPPINESS Candle this Sunday. We light the JOY Candle…and I believe there is a difference. Kay Warren, from her book “Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn’t Enough,” gives this definition of Joy:
“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.”
I like that definition: Joy is a “quiet confidence,” that is based not on how we feel in the moment, but on a dogged and determined belief that we are known by God, loved by God, and belong to God, now and always, and that there is nothing in life or in death that can change that.
That is what the Angel announced to the Shepherd’s the night Jesus was born: “There is no longer any need to be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of a great JOY for all the people; for unto you, is born this day, in the City of David, a Savior, who is Christ, the Lord.”
“Unto you,” said the Angel. “Unto you, a Savior is born, who is Christ the Lord. And he will be “Immanuel – God with us…God with You…not matter what.” Now, that is indeed a message of great joy!
Throughout this Advent Season we have been sharing with you the poetry of Ann Weems, from her book of Christmas reflections called “Kneeling in Bethlehem.”
Here is one for this, the Third Week of Advent:
Your burden is too great to bear?
Your loneliness is intensified during this Christmas Season?
Your tears seem to have no end?
You should lead the celebration!
You should run through the streets
To ring the bells and sing the loudest!
You should fling the tinsel on the tree,
And open your house to your neighbors,
And call them in to dance!
For it is you above all others
Who know the joy of Advent.
It is unto you that is Savior is born this day,
One who comes to lift your burden from your shoulders,
One who comes to wipe the tears from your eyes.
You are not alone,
For he is born this day for you.
From Kneeling in Bethlehem. © 1993 Ann Weems. Used by permission of Westminster John Knox Press. All rights reserved
Praying Peace and Joy for you this Advent Season.
- Pastor Bob