Advent Joy

In the Midst of Sorrow?


I didn't know about Advent when I was growing up. Christmas was a one-day-event that celebrated Jesus' birthday. Mostly it was about getting presents and all the festivities surrounding it. My mom and dad loved Jesus. They wanted their children to love him too. They were concerned that mixing Santa with Christmas would take away from our believing in Jesus. Yet, they allowed us to see Santa, and sit on his lap to tell him our Christmas wishes. But they never encouraged us to "believe" in Santa. When we asked mom if Santa was "real," she would say, "He's a real myth." Somehow her answer satisfied me. I deduced that Santa was for pretending. For my brother, that's another story. He bought into the "myth," until one of his school mates told him the truth. He was terribly disappointed.

My husband and I, and our three children when they were young, visited a church that observed Advent. At first I wasn't sure about this celebration. After all, Advent isn't mentioned in the Bible. But I appreciated the month-long emphasis on waiting and preparing our hearts for our Savior's birthday celebration and his eventual second coming. We decided then to make Advent a family tradition. Our children are now grown and moved out, but the nightly lighting of our Advent candles with them are fond memories.

Even though the term Advent, which means coming, from the Latin word, Adventus, isn't mentioned in Scripture, the concept of expectant waiting for the coming Messiah is certainly a Biblical theme! Think of Isaiah's message of the child who would be born and named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). And consider Simeon waiting for the consolation of Israel, or Anna, the prophetess, who was looking for the coming redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:25-38). Think also of the Wise Men who were expectantly waiting for the star to rise in the east, which would lead them to the King of kings. 

In the third week of Advent, the Candle of Joy, the pink candle, is lit! (My daughter recently told me that the pink candle was always, and still is, her favorite candle. Most likely because it is pink! I never knew it was her favorite candle until this year!)

Joy is a happy word. It evokes pleasant thoughts. But, is it possible to have joy in the midst of suffering or loss? The Apostle John wrote, "And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete" 1 John 1:4.  John understood that to experience joy we must walk in the light, and be connected to Jesus, the giver of life (1 John 1:5-7). And unlike happiness, which depends on good things "happening" in our lives, joy is that deep sense of satisfaction that God is in control, he will not abandon his children. In fact, he promises to work all things—our suffering and sadness, our losses, and even our failures—for our good (Romans 8:28). Hope, represented by the first candle of Advent, is wrapped up in joy. And joy is wrapped up in hope! We can have hope because God is faithful and will keep the promises he made to us. Our hope comes from God.

Advent is a time for joy. Whether we await the Savior's birth in sorrow or celebration, we can anticipate his birth and eventual second coming with joyful hearts, knowing that he came to make peace with God for us. Jesus pierced the darkness to give us a place in his eternal Kingdom, beginning here and now. 

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, who for the joy set before him endured the cross" (Hebrews 12:2)! How was it possible for Jesus to joyfully sacrifice his life? He knew his suffering would bring about our salvation! That's how much he loves us!

Joy is God-centered and not dependant on our circumstances. Therefore, it is possible for believers to experience joy in the midst of sorrow or celebration.  We can trust that no matter what is happening in our lives—the good, the bad, the ugly—when we center our lives on Jesus, our life story will work out for good; our joy is completed in God. The situation we are in today, whether good or bad, will not always be so. We are citizens of heaven, and we eagerly wait for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Today, may this Advent season remind us of Christ's first coming, and compel us to live lives worthy of our Lord Jesus, eagerly awaiting his second coming (1 Thessalonians 1:10)!

O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord. 

Prayer: "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope" Romans 15:13.

Copyright 2016 Sarah Keith
SundaySchoolNetwork.com

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