What is this? For more information, read the introduction here.
Advent joy is not Christmas cheer – that incessant, insistent demand from marketers and party-planners to have a “Merry Christmas”. Advent joy is not about parties and presents and twinkling lights. It’s not even about gathered friends and family or beautiful church services. Advent joy outlasts the holiday season and is present even in places where none of the holiday trimmings can be found. Unlike Christmas cheer, Advent joy is even available to people who are lonely or sad or angry at what is, for many, a very difficult time of year.
This is because Advent joy is not a feeling we have but rather is an attribute of the world as it is and, more fully, as it will be. When God became flesh, joy entered the world: “I bring you tidings of great joy”, declared the angel to the shepherds on that first Christmas night. “for unto you a Saviour is born!” What greater joy could there be than the presence of God-with-us, born a child to participate in the mess and the beauty and the suffering and the happiness of creation right along with us?
This joy does not deny the reality of grief and suffering. It does not demand phony smiles and false assurances of well-being. Instead, it offers a sure promise that God knows, that God cares, that God is with us. “Rejoice in the Lord at all times” says St. Paul. Rejoice in the Lord when you are scared or sad or angry or anxious. Rejoice in the Lord when you are happy and secure and hopeful. Rejoice in the Lord at all times.
Christmas cheer does, however, have one clear advantage: we know how to experience it. Pop in the Christmas music, turn on the Christmas lights, eat a Christmas cooking and…voilà! Advent joy is a little more subtle, a little less formulaic. It requires us to slow down, look past the distractions of our hyper-consumerist, hyperactive world, and notice the presence of God no matter our mood or our circumstances. This practice of attentiveness to the presence of God prepares us to receive the gift of God-with-us in the birth of Jesus on Christmas morning. More importantly, it also prepares us to receive the gift of God-with-us in the coming Kingdom when our joy will finally be made perfect in the joy of God.
Third Week – Sunday December 11th
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4
At this time of the year, we rejoice that the Lord draws near. One aspect of joy is the way in which we express it. This passage reminds us that joy is not an inner sense of self satisfaction but a love that is so grateful, it comes out as gentleness toward others. When we reside in joy, we turn our faces away from ourselves and toward God. We end up focussing, not on how difficult things are for us, but on how amazing the gifts are which we’ve been given – and from that point on, we are transformed. Our hearts and minds, our whole selves are guarded in that peace of Christ which is far greater that any of us can understand. What is bringing you joy this Advent season, and how have you shared it with others?
When the King shall come again,
all his power revealing;
splendour shall announce his reign,
life and joy and healing:
earth no longer in decay,
hope no more frustrated;
this is God’s redemption day
This Advent devotional is intended to help you enter into the season of advent. We hope you enjoy it! Much thanks to the Rev. Paul Jennings for his help putting these reflections together.