The third Sunday of Advent focuses on joy. This really caused me to reflect this year. Our family has experienced a significant number of changes in the past few years. Many of you have experienced loss and change also. This year we’ve also faced shared challenges of responding to something we’ve never experienced before. There is no playbook for how to respond, so we’ve all had to do our best to understand and do what’s best. I’ve had some personal health challenges, and I’m in isolation as I write this, preparing for my second (and hopefully final) surgery to correct my eyesight. I know that many of you have faced health challenges this past year. Some of you are in the middle of dealing with them, too.
So what does all of this have to do with joy? As I look at the calendar and see that Christmas is at the end of next week, it doesn’t seem possible to me. With everything going on, it has been hard to development the typical excitement I have during the Christmas season. Here’s what it’s made me think about again. What does it mean to have joy? You probably know that the book of the Bible that focuses on joy more than any other is the book of Philippians. Here is Paul, writing from prison. He is in the middle of experiencing hardships and he says this: “But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me,” (Philippians 2:17-18, NIV).
We always say that joy isn’t dependent on circumstances. Joy is a deep sense that we are fulfilling our purpose for God, even if we are in the middle of hardship, or sickness, or we’ve experienced loss. So Paul, sitting in prison and not knowing if he would live or die, was able to say that he was rejoicing. Like I’ve said, I’m reflecting on this, and I need to think about it some more. I need to ask myself if I’m focused on fulfilling God’s purpose for me. Perhaps it’s a question you will reflect on as well, as we remember the birth of our Savior, and as we approach the end of this year and the beginning of a new one.
I want to say thank you again to all of those who helped the service go smoothly yesterday. The timing of my procedure and the surgery center’s Covid restrictions did not work well for me coming from a two-month absence, and then having to be quarantined over the weekend. Thank you for those who helped make the best of a difficult situation. I thoroughly enjoyed the music in yesterday’s service. Thanks for all who participated in that. I know it helped lift my spirits.
We are currently experiencing trouble with our email at NDMC. Hopefully we will get it straightened out this week. For the time being, if you have an urgent message copy my email address as well: firstname.lastname@example.org.
God bless, Brian
Scriptures this Week:
2 Samuel 7:1-17—Why do you think it’s important that David’s throne was to be established forever? Psalm 89:1-29—What does God’s faithfulness to his promises mean to you? Romans 16:25-27—What do you think Paul means when he says, “the mystery hidden for long ages past”? Luke 1:39-55—Name one or two things that catches your attention in Mary’s song. Why do you think these particularly catch your attention?