Advent Devotional: Dec. 23, 2019

Finding Joy

by Maxine Pinson Easom
December 23, 2019

John 15:11 — I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

I believe that in our Christian lives, each of us spends periods of time in personal searches for better and clearer understandings of how God calls us to live.  Over the last few months I have been giving a lot of thought to the presence of “joy” in my life.  I am sure this quest is because, paradoxically, joy can be pervasive, and it can appear illusive.  It can be obvious, and it can also seem hidden.  It can be effusive, but it can seem scarce.  How can I live a life filled with joy?

For me this seach has not been a search for joy.  Praise God, I do feel the presence of joy in my life.  My quest has been to understand how joy seems present even amidst adversity, and why we feel it, even in times of loss.  For me, much of that purpose has been to have a clearer understanding of joy, so I can, as the children’s chorus says, expand that “Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy, down in my heart.”

Part of our difficulty with understanding joy is that we often equate joy with happiness; with a feeling.  I am coming to understand that joy is not a feeling; it is simply knowing that Jesus came to care for me (us); to give his life for me (us); and to continue to fill my life with his grace.  Because of this, no matter how much suffering we have, no matter how much evil and pain there is in the world, as Christians, we can have joy!  When joy is defined in this way, not as a feeling, not as an experience of things going right or having what one’s heart desires, but as an understanding that joy comes from the knowledge and realization that we are loved by God, no matter what.  Even in the midst of suffering or pain, we can rejoice because we are loved, and nothing can take that away from us!  This is the experience of Christian joy!

But with that said, I think that often we believe that everything about joy is dependent on God. An extension of my growing understanding is that, while founded in God’s grace, generosity, and ever-presence, joy is also something we accept; something we affirm; and something that we admit requires a response from “me.”  That joy is a result of God’s presence living in us.  I think this is what makes a joyful existence possible.  Knowing that it is about God, embraced and affirmed by us.  That gives us a joyful presence in our lives.  As a fruit of the spirit, God gives each of us the capacity to live with and grow in joy!  Thanks be to God!

Prayer:  Dear God. Knowing that you are the source of our joy, we pray for your presence in our lives.  Through our salvation, envelop us in a joyful existence, fill us with your love, and call us to express our joy in service.  Amen.

Who cares about the lost sheep?

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Photo by @gracillius, morguefile.com.

The parable of the lost sheep makes no sense to many of us. Why would the shepherd put so much effort into that one sheep, when he has 99 sheep to account for? In God’s eyes, everyone is important. And God seeks every single person. And like the joy the shepherd had when he found the lost sheep, God is joyful when we are found. We are all lost, and we come to church to share in the joy of being found.

 

Sermon

“From Raised Eyebrows to Rejoicing (with a Little Risk and Repentance in Between)”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Luke 15: 1-10
Sept. 4, 2015