Week 3: Joy

Let there be jubilation,

celebration, and festivity!

Our hope is sure, we have peace with God, and the messiah is coming to set everything right in our sin drenched world. Every tear will be dried, every hurting heart mended, every broken body healed, every torn relationship restored. We are treasured sons and daughters of the most high God. The only reasonable response to God's lavish love and goodness is joy pure joy!

 

Scripture

Psalm 126

Isaiah 61:1-4, 7-11

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Matthew 1:2-11

 

Questions for Reflection

1. Even when describing joy, the biblical writers never gloss over evil and suffering. The selected passages acknowledge a wide range of dark realities and conditions, among them:

Tears

Weeping

Mourning

Grief

Poverty

Despair

Captivity

Imprisonment

Ashes

Ruins

Devastations

Disgrace

Robbery

Wrongdoing

Every kind of evil

Blindness

Lameness

Deafness

Leprosy

Death

 

Pastor described such unwelcome intrusions in our lives as “interruptions.” And the impact? “They can stir fear and anxiety. They steal our sleep and pickpocket our joy. They can cause us to question God, even turn away from God”.

• Which words or phrases on the list come closest to describing a recent “interruption” you’ve experienced or one you’re experiencing now?

• How has this interruption affected you? For example, consider the emotional, physical, relational, and financial consequences.

• The Christmas season could be characterized as "a season of interruptions." In what ways, if any, does the holiday season complicate or intensify the effects of your interruptions? In what ways, if any, do the holidays lighten your burden?

• How would you describe your awareness and experience of God throughout the season? For example, does God seem especially close or distant? Do you find yourself turning toward God or away from him, or do you vacillate?

 

2. The psalmist used the images of seeds in harvest to describe the miracle of God gleaning joy from suffering (Psalms 126:5–6). Author and Pastor Eugene Peterson summarized it in this way: "all suffering, all pain, all emptiness, all disappointment is seed: so it in God and he will, finally, bring a crop of joy from it." It is the same resurrection truth the apostle Paul described in the first letter to the church at courts:

What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sewn in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sewn in weakness, it is raised in power. (1 Cor. 15:42-43 NRSV)

If we think of the hardships of this life as seeds, we have at least three options for what we can do with them:

We can refuse to plant. We can cling to our hardships into our lives as they are.

We can plant in God. We can surrender our hardships and our lives in faith, trusting that God can and will produce crops of joy and new life.

We can plant in something other than God. We can choose the shallow soil's of distraction or self-defeating behaviors in hopes they will produce a crop of quick relief. For example, "we shopped till we dropped, drink till we can't think, work till we can't stop".

• how do you relate to each of the three options? Which one best describes how you dealt with or are dealing with situation(s) you identified in question one?

• Being pointed to Psalm 11:3 and an ancient question that echoes today: "When all that is good falls apart, what can good people do?" What is falling apart in our world today? What is falling apart in your personal world? Enumerate some of the challenges facing humanity. What interruptions are threatening your personal peace? Answer the question: "What is the godly response to these unexpected mishaps in calamities of life?"

 

God has made a business of turning tragedy and triumph. In what ways does the lives of Joseph, Moses, Daniel, and Jesus challenge and encourage you? How can your own encounter with adversity move you closer to understanding the sufferings of Christ?

 

3. The Psalmist rehearsed God's wonders from the past and concluded, "Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us! What joy!" (Psalms 126:3.) When the prophet Isaiah considered how God had already saved him and also look forward to what God would do in the future, he responded, "I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!" (Isaiah 61:10 NLT). When it came to Joy, the apostle Paul said there is no time like the present: "always be joyful" (1 Thessalonians 5:16). Joy is a time traveler. It constantly scans the timeline--from ancient history to infinity--and sets up camp on every occasion and every promise of God's lavish goodness.

 

• What brings you the greatest joy--remembering the past, experiencing the present, or anticipating the future? Which brings the least joy?

• Advent is a time traveling season. There is joy and remembering God's gift of the Christ child, joy and celebrating God's presence with us now, and joy in anticipating the second advent. Which of these three sources of joy resonates most with you this advent? Why?

Advent prayer

Come, Lord Jesus. Be my joy.

 

Advent practice

Consider using one or more of the following options to help you practice and experience joy this week.

• Plant a seed as an expression of trust that just as God will bring a plant from a seed, he will also bring a crop of joy from the seeds of every hardship you so in him. For example, the bulbs of Amaryllis flowers are often used as gifts during the Christmas season. The bulbs are typically sold in pots, grow well indoors, and need just a bit of sun and water to grow and bloom. But any seed will do, even grass seed! Follow the directions for planting and growing your seed(s) indoors, and allow the process of sewing, waiting, and growth to be a touchstone for your own reflection and growth in joy.

• Engage in "Time travel" to search for joy. Use your journal or notepad to create a three-column chart. At the top of the columns, write past, present, and future. In each column right the last two or three ways in which you recognize God's lavish goodness to you--actions he has taken on your behalf. Then write down in each column any questions you have for God or any ways you are struggling to recognize God's goodness to you in that time period. Close with prayer, offering your chart to God. Express your joy for his goodness to you and in trust your questions to him, asking to see the light of his goodness even in dark places.

• As you reflect on the "interruption" of Jenna's miscarriage, ask God to remind you of a young couple experiencing a similar season of sadness. Pray for them, and ask God to show you how you make comfort and encourage them in the days ahead.

 

Advent Hymn

GOD REST YE MERRY, GENTLEMEN

God rest ye Merry, gentlemen,

Let nothing you dismay,

Remember Christ our Savior

was born on Christmas day;

To save us all from Satan's power

When we were gone astray.

O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy; 

O tidings of comfort and joy.

In Bethlehem, in Israel,

This blessed Babe was born,

And laid within a manger

Upon his blessed mourn;

The which his mother Mary

Did nothing take in scorn.

O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy;

O tidings of comfort and joy.

From God our heavenly Father

A blessed angel came;

And unto certain shepherds

Brought tidings of the same;

How that in Behtlehem was born

The Sond of God by name.

O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy;

O tidings of comfort and joy.

Fear not, then, said the angel,

let nothing you affright

This day is born a Savior

of a pure Virgin bright,

To free all those who trust in Him

From Satan's power and might.

O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy;

O tidings of comfort and joy.

The shepherds at those tidings

Rejoiced much in mind,

And left their flocks a feeding

In tempest, storm and wind,

And went to Bethl'em straightaway

This blessed Babe to find.

O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy;

O tidings of comfort and joy.

Now to the Lord sing praises

All you within this place,

And with true love and brotherhood

Each other now embrace;

this holy tide of Christmas

All others doth deface.

O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy;

O tidings of comfort and joy.

 

Lyrics: Tradition English Carol

You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me! I sing for joy because of what you have done.

Psalm 92:4 NLT

 

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, and eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 16:11

 

Bite of the Lord is your strength

Nehemiah 8:10

 

Joy has a history. Joy is the verified, repeated experience of those involved in what God is doing.

Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

 

Joy is nurtured by anticipation....Just as joy builds on the past, it borrows from the future. It expects certain things to happen.

Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

 

Joy, happiness, and inner peace comes from the giving of ourselves to others. A happy life is a life for others

Henri J. M. Nouwen, Life of the Beloved

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