Sunday, December 16, 2018

Advent Week 3: Joy

This third Sunday of Advent is Gaudete Sunday (from the Latin word Gaudete, meaning "Rejoice"). Today, we light the rose/pink candle, which symbolizes joy. It is called the “Shepherd’s Candle,” and is pink because rose is a liturgical color for joy.

As we light the third candle for joy, we remember:
  • the joy Mary felt when the angel Gabriel told her that a special child would be born to her - a child who would save and deliver all people (Luke 1:26-56)
  • the joy the shepherds felt at the angel's announcement: "Do not be afraid. I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people - for to you is born this day, in the City of David, a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord" (Luke 2:8-20)
  • the gift of joy we have in Christ, who came bring true and everlasting joy. (Read what the bible says about joy here)
Joy is different from happiness. The theologian Henri Nouwen described the difference. While happiness is dependent on external conditions, joy is "the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing – sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death - can take that love away." Thus joy can be present even in the midst of sadness. (1)

"And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God's throne." Hebrews 12:1b, 2 NLT

Christ came to save us by giving his life a ransom for ours. How could he view his dying as joy? While the experience itself was one of torturous suffering, pain and passion, he obediently endured "for the joy set before him."

Someone asked, "What was that joy he was awaiting? What was the joy set before him?" And the reply: "It was YOU."

We are the reason Christ came and suffered. God sent his son, because of his great love, to rescue us so that we could return to relationship with God, to the loving fellowship for which we were created and which sin has broken. The joy Jesus awaited and sacrificed himself to attain was our salvation and restoration into God's family for eternity. What joy!

Listen to the King's Singers as they perform one rendition of "Gaudete" --a joyful medieval song of praise:

Song Lyrics:
Rejoice, rejoice! Christ is born off the Virgin Mary – Rejoice! The time of grace has come—what we have wished for; songs of joy let us give back faithfully. God has become man, with nature marvelling, the world has been renewed by the reigning Christ. The closed gate of Ezekiel is passed through, whence the light is risen; Salvation has been found. Therefore, let our preaching now sing in brightness. Let it bless the Lord: Greeting to our King.

Loving God, thank you for the joy you bring. Help me prepare my heart for the Lord’s coming by being joyful in all circumstances. Help me see that Christ came for every person I meet wherever I go. Help me to humbly serve others with joy as Jesus did, in obedience to the Father. I ask this in the name of the one born in Bethlehem, Jesus our Lord.

Living it out:
Consider sharing today with your family members, friends, and/or in the comments section how you have experienced joy. May joy be an overflowing river in you today!

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