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Advent | Week Four | Joy

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Read | Luke 2:8-14 (ESV; emphasis added)

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Merriam-Webster defines joy as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.”

I think the movie Elf does a great job of capturing the idea and concept of joy in the character of Buddy the Elf. He’s full of wonder and hope and is always ready with a smile (because smiling is his favorite). We don’t talk about joy that much in our culture these days … but joy is at the center of the Christmas story.

The angel appeared to the shepherds outside of Bethlehem with an announcement of “great joy.” It wasn’t a message that the shepherds were more successful or that they had been blessed by “good fortune,” wherever that comes from. It wasn’t even that they had won the lottery or anything like that.

The message of the angel was that God was sending a Savior. Because of that, because God was doing something unique in the history of the world to save people, there was cause for joy. And the joy wasn’t just for the shepherds. It was for “all the people.”

The fact that God sent Jesus into the world is cause for joy … for everyone. For you, for me, for the people you work with, for the people you go to school with, for the people who live next door, and for the people who live on the other side of the world.

Whether we realize it or not, whether we want to acknowledge it or not, we all need a Savior. We need to be saved from a life that’s all about ourselves. We need to be saved from a life that’s all about doing what we want when we want. We need to be saved from a life that is small and inward-focused and anemic and short-sighted.

Jesus came to save us from that kind of life and invite us into the life we were created for—a life that’s about God and His vision for the world, a life that’s expansive and growing and dynamic and eternal.

Jesus came to earth. And that was cause for “great joy for all the people” two thousand years ago. And that same joy can grip our hearts today if we realize the greatness of the gift God has given us in Jesus.

May your heart be filled with joy this Christmas season.

Reflect | Where or to who do you need to spread Joy to this Christmas?

in Church

Advent | Week Three | Love

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Read | Philippians 2:5-11

“You’ll shoot your eye out…”

A desperate desire squelched by an ominous warning.

If you let it, this quote surfaces memories. Memories of childhood don’ts and warnings. The fear of consequences for taking a risk before you’re ready. The penalty for laziness, fun or failure. Good warnings that protect us when we’re young.

However, as we grow up the protection becomes paralysis. We insulated from failure and loss and now cannot experience it. We’ve been ironically blinded by our personal, “You’ll shoot your eye out.” If only we had been given a warning for the warnings.

In contrast the Christmas season looks forward, not toward consequences, but love. Jesus reveals his love by ignoring the warnings and moving toward us with vulnerability. He comes into the world, unexpectedly, as a child. His message is a love that leads to freedom.

Jesus reframes, “You’ll shoot your eye out” not as a warning, but a prophecy. You will shoot your eye out, we all will. So Jesus takes the metaphorical bb, for you. He offers to endure the consequence and replace our childhood warnings with infinite and overflowing love. Love that reaches us precisely at our most vulnerable moments.

Reflect | Will you let your inner warnings be overshadowed by love?

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