Finding Joy this Advent
This Sunday will be the third Sunday of Advent – the theme of which is joy. As this week is the “joy” week, I want to invite you to check out the Bible Project’s Advent video on ‘joy’. It’s a good one – and fills in so much that is usually missing from our understanding of joy.
We think of joy as a feeling, like happiness…and that is a part of it, but joy is so much more. Happiness is more like a mood based on circumstances, but joy is deeper, more lasting, more foundational.
Joy is more like an attitude based not on our circumstances, but on the promise, grace, and love of God.
Joy looks less to our immediate circumstances, and more to our future as God has promised it: one of new life, renewal, and redemption. Watch the video – it’s all in there!
In our Advent bible studies this week, we discussed this understanding of joy – and found some very important things.
First, joy is a choice.
It’s a decision we make. Not that we can decide to feel happy and then be happy…we can’t make ourselves feel differently (go ahead and try it sometime!). But we can decide to face difficulties, trials, and suffering differently. We can decide to first look up to God’s promises before we look at our struggles – and so do so from a different perspective. This empowers us to have eyes and hearts that are tuned by joy.
Second, joy is a lens we can see though.
James tells us that, whenever we face trials of all kinds, we should ‘consider it pure joy’ (1:2-3). What he means by that is that through our trials and struggles, God teaches us, refines us , and expands our faith. And that’s a good thing. Not that the struggle is a good thing, but it’s good that God will use it for our benefit – and thus, we can see it through joy.
Third, we need to ask for joy.
Ultimately, joy is a gift given by the Spirit of God within us – you might say a ‘fruit’ of the Spirit (well, actually Paul says it in Galatians 5:22!). Paul’s letter to the Philippians is kind of magna carta of joy – you should try reading it this week. Paul writes it from prison, in a time that he had been – and was still going through – and looking ahead to – significant suffering. Not an easy time by anyone’s standards. And yet, he was filled with joy. Why? Because he had learned the secret of contentment (4:11-12): that whether he lived or died (1:18-24), God is close to him (4:5) and gives him strength (4:13), and so he can find peace in Jesus that passes what we can understand (4:7) through thanksgiving, prayer, and petition to God (4:6).
TL;DR? Talk to God, ask for peace, experience joy.
My hope for you this Christmas season is that you could experience the good news of GREAT joy for us all: Jesus Christ has been born for us.