Advent 3  

Preparing for the joy set before us … preparing for the coming Messiah.  We are approaching the 3rd Sunday in Advent.  We should be gathering at St. Andrews and lighting the rose coloured candle on the Advent Wreath.  Of coarse that is not possible this year with the COVID 19 restrictions.  It was to be the candle representing Joy!  Singing hymns like Joy to the World the Lord has Come and Joyful, Joyful we adore thee.  I wonder, can we still have a heart full of joy this year?

But what is joy?  Maybe a hard question to answer.  I mean, there can be so many different things that bring us joy.  Joy for me is probably not the same thing as joy for you.  Shooting 80 in a Golf game would bring me great JOY.  But for you – you would probably care less about my golf game! 

The Dictionary says:  “Joy:  the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires”. 

WOW!  Is that joy?  An “emotion” that comes when everything is going well. Joy is when we are rich and successful and have all the stuff we “desire”?  Is that really joy?  It would appear so with the advertising blitz in the media each Christmas Season.  Though it isn’t all that joyful for me trying to figure out how to buy something on the Internet.

Our society has mixed up Joy and Happiness.  They are not the same thing.  There are offers of hundreds of different shopping ideas, each one guaranteed to bring us joy.  Get a new 65 inch TV;  get that diamond necklace and earring set;  or a new tablet or iPad.  But does that or would that bring us JOY?

Kay Warren in her book, “Choose Joy:  Because Happiness Isn’t Enough.”, writes:

“Finding joy was a challenge!  My problem was my definition of joy.  I thought joy meant feeling good all the time.  That’s impossible!  
Even for those who are naturally upbeat and optimistic, that’s impossible.  We have to start somewhere more realistic — and close to Scripture. 

Warren continues:

So here’s the definition I’ve come up with from studying Scripture:

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.”

You’ll find nothing in that definition about happy feelings, because, as we all know, happiness is fleeting and temporary.”

If we go along with Warren’s definition of Joy, then Preparing for joy is a choice. 

Jesus made it pretty clear that God is in control of this world and would live in the hearts of those who trusted in him.  So as we look at JOY, there is a choice we make!

Is God in control or NOT?

 Our Joy does not depend on the circumstances that we encounter but rather on a decision to believe that God is in Control and ultimately everything will be OK.  

There is a well-known story about Martin Luther from the 1500’s.  At the height of his greatness, Luther had not only loyal supporters, but bitter enemies as well.  Persecution, lies, bitterness, and betrayals brought him into a prolonged mood of depression and despair.  One morning his wife appeared at the breakfast table dressed in somber black.  Luther looked at her with amazement and said, “Who is dead?”  His wife replied,  “Do you not know?  God is dead.” Luther scolded her for her blasphemy and replied:  “How can God be dead? He is eternal.”

 “Yes,” she answered, “but from the way you are acting, one would think that God must be dead.”  Luther’s wife’s action shocked him from his mood of depression to a mood of renewed confidence.

Sometimes that is how we act don’t we?  We walk around as if there is no hope; that the Joy of the Lord is not our strength.  That Joy has somehow departed from us.  We decide on death rather than LIFE.

The psalmist expresses the joyous mood of believers as they encounter God.  Believers rejoice because God has surrounded them with his steadfast love ( Psalm 32:11 ) and brought them to salvation ( Psalms 40:16; 64:10 ). 

Part of preparing for Joy is to place our lives in Christ’s care.  If you want Joy, that inner Joy that puts a song in your heart; hope in your dreams; and security in your days; ask Jesus Christ to take control of your life.  Let him be your guide.  Obey him!  When you do that, you will know the truth of his words:

“These things I have spoken to you, that my Joy may be in you, and that your Joy may be full.”  Or as the NIV translates, your Joy may be complete!

Do you remember that “Joy” song we often sang in Sunday School and at summer vacation Bible School programs when we were youngsters?

“I have the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy down in my heart, down in my heart.” 

And then the song leader would shout, “Where?”  And we would shout back:  “Down in my heart to stay!”

Have you had those moments when for whatever reason you didn’t feel you had an ounce of Joy left in your heart?  Maybe you had moments when Joy was lacking in your life?  For many of us, 2020 has been such a season.

This Christmas season you may feel like there isn’t much joy in your world. 

I know that when I sat on the hospital bed after my heart by-pass surgery. I did not feel like I had too much joy in my life.  As I read the scriptures I have wondered how the Apostle Paul could possibly have had Joy down deep in his heart?  Paul was locked down in prison for his faith but yet he writes from the Philippian jail cell:  that we as Christians are to “rejoice” in the Lord regardless of what difficult circumstances we find ourselves. 

How could John the Baptist have Joy in his heart when he knew that his importance in the salvation drama that God was unfolding was decreasing rather than increasing?  How could he say, “This Joy of mine is now full,” when he knew that he would soon die? 

There are time in our life when we need to be reminded of Paul’s words: Rejoice!  But again I say Rejoice!  The year 2020 is certainly a time to be reminded to Rejoice!  But again I say Rejoice.

As we come closer to Christmas, we are aware that Joy came into this world for more than a moment.  Joy came into this world to stay.  It began with the birth of the child in Bethlehem.  This is the Joy we prepare to receive this Christmas season. 

Christmas can be a season of Joy as we Prepare our hearts.  We can prepare for joy as we look to Jesus, as we give to others and as we look within ourselves.  When we do, we discover what is truly important and we will be filled with Joy.  We will know that God is in Control!

“These things I have spoken to you, that my Joy may be in you, and that your Joy may be complete! (John 15:11)

 

In Christ:

Rev. Merv Lanctot

Faith grows in the soil of hope!

                                                                        -Bill Johnson