Advent Study 2020

Sharing Our Stories: December 15

Writer’s Name:  Shirley Cromwell

Writer’s Position:  At-large member of Lead Team

Assigned Text: Isaiah 12:2-6

Word of the Week: Joy

I vividly remember on my first trip to Kenya experiencing the joyful dancing and singing done by the people in the local church. Growing up Methodist, I had never witnessed such a boisterous celebration in church. The people within the walls of that little stick church with a dirt floor were suffering from extreme poverty, hunger and HIV-Aids. I wondered what made them so joyful that even in the midst of such terrible circumstances, they wanted to dance, sing and make bird calls in church that day.

I have learned since then that there is a big difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is conditional and comes and goes. Joy is an inner contentment. It’s what happens deep inside your spirit and soul.

In preparing to write this devotion, it surprised me to find out that joy is a big topic in the Bible. Take Jacob for example. He was running for his life. He had no money and no prospects for a job until Laban offered him one. He served Laban for seven years without payment for the love of Rachel.

Joseph suffered betrayal and enslavement and certainly would not have succeeded in these circumstances if he had not known God had another plan for his life–even when everything pointed the other way.

Ruth was the daughter-in-law of the Jewish widow Naomi.  They both were in a terrible circumstance, since their husbands had died and they were destitute, without a man or family to take care of them. Naomi had decided to return to Judah and urged Ruth to go back to her family. But Ruth had found joy in the God of Naomi! She chose to continue on with Naomi and her God rather than go back to the idols of her culture.

Paul had circumstances throughout his ministry that were some of the worst any man has ever had to endure. Yet it was in prison that he wrote Philippians, sometimes referred to as the “Book of Joy.”

The one thing they all had in common is that they had deep awareness that whatever their circumstances, God was with them.  They all found joy in that realization. Simply put, God wants His children to be joy-filled. Just as a father wants his baby to laugh with glee, God longs for us to experience a deeply rooted joy.

In Jesus’s final prayer (John 17:13), He prayed that His disciples would experience the full measure of His joy – NOW! He really does not want us to wait for heaven to find joy.

He wants us to have joy in the middle of a pandemic, hurricanes, political discord, and racial tension.

You see, now I realize that my Kenyan brothers and sisters had found the Joy of Jesus that fills us to overflowing, so that we can dance and sing and proclaim His victory over life’s worst circumstances.

Bwana Asifiwe!  (“Praise God” in Swahili)

Prayer: Dear God, please instill in us the attitude of joy, no matter what our circumstances. Thank you for those that have gone before us and show us in your Word that joy can be real! We ask in your son’s precious name, Amen.

Reflection/discussion questions:

  1. On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your joy factor?
  2. What might you do today to experience more joy?
  3. What does your attitude communicate about your faith?

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