The first two weeks of Advent are devoted to Hope and Peace. The third week of advent celebrates Joy.
Joy as I am getting ready for Christmas? Seriously? I’ve got a pile of gifts hidden in various closets around that house that still need wrapping. There’s still a few more gifts to buy even though I am dangerously close to the financial limits I had set for this year. I have enough cookie dough ready to make an army of gingerbread men, but still have to bake and decorate them. The tree is waiting for ornaments, maybe there be some time tomorrow for that. And just before the kids come home from college and adult lives, I’ll have to get all the stuff that I have been storing in their rooms put away so they have somewhere to sleep. Then there’s grocery shopping for their favorite breakfast foods and …have I forgotten anything? I forgot to that this week should be joyful, not overstressed with last minute plans to celebrate Christmas. In fact, joy is seeming pretty far away as I look over my to-do list.
So I started small. Maybe not full-blown joy but just the things that make me happy. The little things like when my husband gets up from the table and starts washing the dishes after dinner. Or when my daughter texts me to ask for cooking directions. When I see my son’s car pull into the driveway as he returns from college. How about sharing a glass of wine at sunset after a long day. Remember watching the sandpipers playing tag with the waves on the beach last summer? These are happy thoughts. These are things that bring a smile to my face when work is stressful and my family life chaotic.
You start to realize that there are lots of things that can make us happy. Things that are grand. Things that are humble. But what makes us feel joy?
Not a thing. Things do not make us joyful because joy is not something we feel. It is a gift that we receive. It is God’s to give and ours to receive. (Gal 5:22-26)
Hope began to flicker somewhere in the back of my brain when I first heard about the forgiveness that was offered in that little baby born in Bethlehem.
Peace began to seep around the edges of my fears as began to put my trust in that forgiveness and the One who forgives.
And through Hope and Peace, we can know Joy. Joy to the world, Joy for the world, Joy in spite of this world. The joy of knowing that I am never beyond His reach, never without His eyes upon me, never without His path before me.
This is the essence of joy.