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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?

Dedicated to God: An Invitation for Every Family

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I grew up within about an hour of Washington, D.C. Because of that, I went on lots of field trips and family excursions to the amazing museums and historic landmarks in D.C. As I got older, I started to notice that there were plaques on some of the monuments that went something like this (this is a generic version, of course):

“This is dedicated to the memory of [John and Mary Smith], who gave their lives to [this amazing cause.]”

When something is “dedicated to” someone, it means that it exists to honor that person. It’s a way to remember those people, to celebrate the gift that their lives are to all of us.

You may also have seen this kind of dedication near certain works of art (if you ever find your way into an art museum). In that sense, the artist is usually saying, “I was inspired to produce this work of art because of this other person.”

Both types of dedication provide additional meaning for things that have been created. They provide some of the “why” behind things that are made give us a deeper sense of the importance of them.

It’s the same with all of us. We are all invited to dedicate our lives—and the lives of our families—to God. He has made us. We are His creation and our lives are meant to be a signpost pointing people back to Jesus, back to God.

In Ephesians 2:10, the Apostle Paul wrote: “For we are His [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

We are God’s workmanship, His masterpiece, His work of art. And He invites us to live into that calling so that the people around us will see God’s love and creative power at work in our lives.

A couple times every year, we take time in our services to help families dedicate themselves to that purpose. Many families do this near the addition of a new member of their family, but it is something that can be powerful for a family no matter what age the kids may be.

Our next Family Dedication service is coming up on May 12-13, Mother’s Day weekend. Please plan to join us that weekend to join with these families who will be responding to God’s invitation to dedicate themselves to God.

There is no higher calling, no higher purpose, than to live our lives in ways that point people to Jesus. So whether you choose to be a part of the Family Dedication service or not, remember that this is what you were made for—to be dedicated as a piece of art, as a memorial to the love, compassion, and forgiveness of our Creator.

If you’d like to register for the Family Dedication service coming up in May, you can complete the form here.

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