Joy Is Ours to Keep:)

This is the Season of Advent, and today’s candle represents joy. Joy is ours to keep, and no one can take His joy from us. The season began with the candle of hope. Hope is always present and is God’s promise forever. His peace surpasses all comprehension, and His love is assured. Philippians says it beautifully.

Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!  Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. NASB

The Lord is near! That gives my heart hope, peace, joy, and love. I can allow Satan and others to steal any one of these precious gifts of God, and weeks like this one certainly open up the door and give those thieves access. Jesus will close that door of grief and heartache and sit with me until the pain subsides. He knows that pain weakens and leaves me vulnerable. It’s why He came to make a better way, one where hope, peace, joy, and love abound and are mine to keep forever. If they are stolen for a time, He will help me retrieve and hold on to them.

Obedience leads to joy, and that’s the key to finding and keeping joy alive in my heart. Joy isn’t ha ha happy, and it isn’t Pollyanna optimism. It is His presence in the midst of disaster, sadness, and whatever else befalls me on this journey. He won the war, and I can shout from the depths of my heart because of that victory. He is coming again, and that is what Advent is all about. He has not left us and assures that He will be with us always. There’s joy in connection. There’s joy in knowing I am loved. There’s joy in knowing that this world isn’t the final word.

Obedience requires trust, and that means stepping out in faith and believing that God is who He says He is. When I do that, fear flees and worries wither away. I don’t have to understand as I obey; I simply have to trust God. Proverbs 3:5 says it best:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.”

The teacher in me wants to understand before I obey, but the Christ in me says trust in the Lord. I argue at times and fall prey to worry, but Christ’s sweet voice keeps whispering softly in my heart. When I get still, those gentle words calm my spirit and bring joy to my soul. Singing praises allow joy to flow down and up and all through me. It’s tempting to weep and wail, and I’ve done my share of that this week, but songs of joy lift. Hope, peace, and love join in, and the chorus becomes a heavenly one:)

Coming or Going?

Advent is a season of longing as we look to Christ’s second coming. That involves embracing the ancient anticipation of the Messiah and celebrating the sweet Nativity of Jesus. So often, Advent ends with the first coming and ignores the second. Tales of woe and fears of being left behind have tarnished our longing and caused us to leave the second coming behind in our Advent celebrations. Advent is a season of joy and hope that should be at the very center of Christmas.

When discussing the second coming with a group of young people recently, many expressed concern that Christ might come before they were ready. They wanted to live out their lives first. That made me think about my own thoughts on the matter.

Wanting to live out my life is part of my journey, and the thought of Christ coming before I’m ready is natural. Like Ricky Bobby in Taladaega Nights, it’s safest to stick to baby Jesus in the manger. I do love the manger, and the very thought of Imanu’el brings great joy to my heart. When Jesus returns, He will be God glorified. Am I prepared for the grown up, glorified Christ and the going His coming will involve? That’s the question that makes me want to run back to the manger with Ricky Bobby!

The point of Advent is hope, but hope gets lost in buying frenzies and seasonal depression. I pray my heart will stop and linger and long for Him this year. Instead of sugar plums dancing in my head, I pray for visions of love and hope and peace that play out in my everyday life as Christ desires.

The best news is that I don’t have to wait for Christ’s second coming to begin walking in His kingdom. Everyday is Advent if I look for Jesus in the everyday. I believe that comes a lot closer to the reality of His return than the fear-filled dramas written by men. Christ will not be an infant when He returns, but He will be the same sweet Lord He was, is, and will always be. His character never changes, and His love remains steadfast. That gives me hope and causes me to anticipate His return everywhere, everyday:)