This Advent season of 2020 the focus is on rekindling the gift of God. We certainly need our spiritual grounding and the gifts of faith to sustain us during these difficult times.
There is a ritual for lighting the Advent wreath each Sunday. Then there is a reading for each day of the week based on the theme of the week’s candle.
May we rekindle the gifts of hope, peace, joy, and love this Advent season!
Rekindle the Gift of Joy
Lighting the Third Advent Candle – JOY
In our homes we gather around wreaths to pray our lost hopes, broken peace, limited joys, and love so hard to find and share in this season of coronavirus. We affirm that our candles mean we claim the power to call this season Advent, when God’s light comes into the world and nothing can overcome it.
Light two candles.
We light the candles of hope and peace.
Light a third candle.
We now light the candle of joy in spite of missing so many things we thought were essential to a merry Christmas
name the traditions, people, and activities that you are missing this year
God’s joy ignites embers under loss and sorrow and lights the wick of joy in our lives so that we may shine on the world – a simple smile and unexpected laughter – and brighten the path toward joy. Amen.
Monday Dec. 14 JOY
‘Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.’
In the story of Jesus healing the 10 people who have leprosy, one of those healed comes back to Jesus rejoicing and praising God. A joyous scene is portrayed.
Jesus comes to heal and make us whole. He comes to heal our wounds of hurt feelings and desperation. He comes to heal the past which can control us to our detriment. He comes to heal relationships and bring reconciliation. He comes to make us whole when we have been battered and bruised by people in our lives who were to care for us. He come to make us whole when we have been beaten down by attitudes and systems in society that seek to suppress us.
Jesus comes to heal us and lift us up so that we are filled with joy.
This invites us to consider where we need healing in our lives. What hurt and pain do we bear? Maybe you want to jot down where you may need healing in your life. How would you like to experience the healing power of Jesus that leads to joy?
Healing involves change. Embracing a new reality. Sometimes we fear change. We become used to our aches and pains, our grudges and biases. May we open ourselves to healing so that we may know joy! Amen.
Tuesday Dec. 15 JOY
‘Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises. Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy. . .’
‘Joy to the world, the Lord is come!’
It’s a Christmas favorite and in our church we usually sing it at Easter, too!
In this rousing hymn heaven, nature, Earth, fields, floods, rocks, hills, and plains along with humanity join in praise and joy for the wonder of God’s love in Jesus Christ.
This carol celebrates that Jesus brings joy not only to humanity but to all of Creation. It is a sentiment that prods us out of our anthropocentrism. All of nature is rejoicing. Jesus comes not just for people but for the whole world.
While there are days that we may not feel much joy, nature continues to resound with joy – trees growing, animals building homes and nests, mycelium breaking down vegetable matter, creating soil, and sending messages to trees. Yes, there are days when we don’t want to get out of bed, but nature continues to offer praise and joy.
We can let nature lift us up. We are part of nature, so our joy is to go on reveling in life no matter what the circumstances.
Heaven and nature sing. Repeat the sounding joy. Of the wonders of God’s love. May we join nature in joy and praise!
You are invited to note where you see joy in nature today.
All of nature resounds with joy. Jesus brings abundant life and joy. May we join nature in celebrating the wonders of God’s love. Amen.
Wednesday Dec. 16 JOY
‘Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.’
This is the season of gift giving. We especially think about giving gifts to children – toys, books, games. I can remember when our children were young, one Christmas there were so many gifts we could not open them all on Christmas Day and had to continue the gift opening orgy the day after Christmas.
That Christmas led to some soul searching. What were we doing with all of those gifts? What message was this sending? It was certainly perpetuating consumerism and materialism – completely at odds with the teachings of Jesus and the message of the Gospel. All those presents? This is not what Jesus would want.
The next year, we got one ‘big’ gift for each child. We spent much of the day at the local park, in the fenced in tennis courts, with the dog running loose, one child riding a new scooter and one with new roller blades. We had a wonderful time.
So, what are we looking for when we think about joy? What brings us joy? Are we thinking about something humongous and stupendous? Are we thinking about material wealth and security? Are we thinking about a miracle? Or are we thinking about something simple.
Survey your life. Examine your expectations. Jesus brings joy. Are you open to receiving it or are you missing it, preoccupied and distracted by other things and missing the joy that you are being given?
Maybe you can make a list of where you are finding joy in the living of your days – even with the restrictions of covid. Maybe even because of the restrictions of covid!
Jesus comes to bring us joy. Maybe sometimes we miss the gift we are being given. May we open our eyes and our hearts to the joy that is being given to us. Amen.
Thursday Dec. 17 JOY
‘David also commanded the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their kindred as the singers to play on musical instruments, on harps and lyres and cymbals, to raise loud sounds of joy.’
I Chronicles 15:16
The Christmas season is known for its music. What are some of your favorite Christmas songs? Sleigh Ride? We Three Kings? Feliz Navidad? Music expresses the joy of Christmas. Maybe some years we put on Christmas music to reflect our joy at this season. Maybe this year we need to play more Christmas music to help us feel the joy. Remember the joy. Rekindle the joy. So, what is on your Christmas play list? Are you making sure to listen to some Christmas music each day?
Think about how you are feeling right now. Put on some Christmas music. How do you feel after listening to it? Hopefully, it gave you a lift!
Music is a divine gift of expression. We give thanks for artists and musicians who lift our spirits through their creativity. This season, we especially give thanks for Christmas music which connects us to the past and lifts our spirits in this moment. Amen.
Friday Dec. 18 JOY
‘Today salvation has come to this house. . .’
The story of the encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus is a favorite. The story exudes joy. Zacchaeus is a rich outcast. He climbs a tree to see Jesus. Jesus treats him with dignity and respect. His humanity is affirmed. Over a shared meal. That’s it. No hocus pocus. Or sacrificial penance. Or groveling. Jesus simply treats Zacchaeus as a person created in the image of God. And Zaccheaus is overjoyed. He is so grateful, he responds with lavish generosity for the poor and restitution to anyone he has defrauded. This story shows us joy that is simple, powerful, and profound.
Over the holidays, even during covid, we want to try to keep things simple. We can bring joy to others simply through respecting and affirming their humanity. Is there someone in your life that you can uplift with joy in this simple way?
Jesus comes to bring us joy by affirming who we are; each a unique child of God. May we receive this gift and share it with others. Amen.
Saturday Dec. 19 JOY
‘I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.’
Many people think of religion as something hard, difficult, burdensome, constraining, and judgmental. Go to church? That’s like asking to be pinched.
But Jesus came to bring joy. He came to lift people up not slap them down. He came to bear witness to the abundance and goodness of the realm of God. It’s not surprising that he was known for his eating and drinking and partying!
If following Jesus makes you feel bitter and cheated, if it makes you feel privileged and entitled, well, maybe you are missing something.
Following Jesus should lead us to be filled with humble joy.
Give some thought to how your walk with Jesus brings more joy into your life.
Jesus shows a life filled with joyful abandon. He shows us how to celebrate the presence of Divine Love in our lives and in our world. May our faith reflect the joy of Jesus. Amen.