JOY in Advent

How would you define joy? Is it a feeling? A state of mind? Is it your strength?

The Apostle Paul says it is the fruit of the Spirit along with love, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  It can sound to us like a list of virtues we need to develop, but the Scripture says “the fruit of the Spirit is” (Gal 5:22) It is singular, because all is found in Christ. He is the living reality of all of these and more.

We read the words of Jesus to his disciples in John 15, as a well-known passage about Him being the true vine. In John 15:4, He says:

“Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.”

What an amazing reassurance that we do not need to “fabricate” these virtues. They can become our identity, part of who we are when we “abide” in Christ and become One with Him.

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

Let earth receive her King!

Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room,

and heav’n and nature sing…”

Issac Watts wrote these words and it became one of the most beloved and often sung Christmas carols. Jesus is our Joy. The lyric “Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room” is another way of inviting us to ‘abide’ in Him. We give Him the soil of our heart.  It is there that God himself cultivates the fruit of the Spirit, and Joy becomes part of who we are, as He is in us and we in Him.  The weeds of this world are pulled by the Master Gardener.  The seed of Life is planted by the Word made flesh.  The Spirit is our Living Water, who becomes our nourishment and growth.

Slowly and supernaturally this growth begins in us.  We see the transformation of our character to be more like Jesus.  We see how the way we interact with others starts to change.  We see our reaction to circumstances, whether good or bad, reflect humility, grace, and peace.  Joy sprouts in the midst of all this.  It doesn’t just appear one day, but like a young seedling, breaking through the soil it grows almost without notice.

When this organic, measured growth begins to be noticeable to ourselves and to others, we are then declaring with Nehemiah:

            “For the Joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

Our Joy is in Jesus.  He is present at all times; He is our strength in every circumstance; He is our righteousness now and forever.  It is never through our efforts that this Joy becomes available, but through Him alone.

Therefore, let’s proclaim this Joy to others.  Next time you hear on the radio or sing, “Joy to World, the Lord has come!”, make it a proclamation of the One who is available to all of us today.

As we light the candle representing Joy this 3rd Sunday in Advent, may the Joy of the Lord be your strength as you depend on him this Christmas and always.

Blessings and peace,

Rev. Todd and Dr. Christiane