Joy Week Devotional

Greetings, my friends! The tree is up and cookies are baked… I am behind in my shopping but the Christmas season is upon us, whether I am ready or not. It’s the third week of Advent… Joy according to my list. Let’s have a chat about that word, shall we? Joy. I loved this post we did about Joy in Photographs… and I’m always interested in seeing what brings different people joy. I love that we are all uniquely wired and have our own individual things that spark that joy within our hearts. (check out this post).

I delved into a little e-book this week (thanks @studygateway.com) that has helped me organize this post; I hope that it enlightens you as much as it did me.

Photo by Kolby Milton on Unsplash

Joyful Light

How many times have you been overjoyed at light? Our dog starts bouncing up and down everytime a set of carlights round the corner. As does my momma’s heart when the headlights pull in the driveway after a late night or a snow storm. Or how about securing your fears with the flick of a switch in the middle of the night, or that toddler’s fears about monsters under the bed? Of all the ways God could have signaled the coming of His son, He chose to light up the night with the brightest of stars. One so bright, that the wisest men on Earth had to take notice. “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” Matthew 2:10

Joy Shared

What is good news unless it is shared? Why do you think social media is such a big hit in our society? We just love to share things! How many of us could barely contain the secret of a new baby on it’s way or an engagement announcement? Joyful news is meant to be shared! We were designed to interact. Our stories tell the good news and spread it’s joy! “As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:20

The Joy of Making Room

Most of us have way to much stuff. Our closets, our pantrys, our garages, our basements are filled to the brim with gizmos and gadgets that are unnecessary. Yet many of our neighbours will go hungry or alone this Christmas season. If we all made a little room at the dinner table this year, do you think it would bring you as much joy as the one you serve will have? I’m all for re-gifting and sharing what we can’t use ourselves. We need to make it normalized. Sharing brings joy — not stigma! “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” John 3:11

A Legacy of Joy

Many of us consider Christmas a time for family. We travel to visit, to celebrate and to reminisce. We miss those who have passed on and recount their stories with laughter and joy. The next generation bring smiles to the faces of those of us who are reliving Christmas morning joys through them. How many of us have learned from family… both in struggle and in peace? How do you want to be remembered? As one who sparked joy or strife? It starts with our attitude for today. “The memory of one who lived with integrity brings joy…” Proverbs 10:7 (VOICE)

Joy in Jesus

Finally, we cannot ignore the fact that our only true joy comes through the babe born. None of us, not even Mary, His mother, can be saved without the baby who came to die on the cross for us. How many times have I marvelled about how do people survive this world without the Hope that Jesus brings? I know I could never do it alone. Being “good” doesn’t cut it. We all start out in the same sinful boat. Truly this is the Joy fullfilled in the advent season. “And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,” Luke 1:46, 47

Blessings this Joy week, my friends! Until we muse together again…

photo via: Kendrickhome

Peace be Upon You

Oh, my dear beloveds… will you humour me in a little exercise? Take a big deep breath in through your nose and fill up your lungs to the deepest capacity … now let it all out in a big ol’ sigh. I don’t know about you, but I needed that after the last few hours. The weather outside has been “frightful” here in the last day or so, and old man winter is certainly making his presence known in our neck of the woods. Normally, I don’t mind too much… but last night both my hubby and my eldest son were out driving in it. Late, after dark, alone. And as much as my dearests tell me not to fret, the all-season, I repeat, not-official-snow-tired-car with ABS brakes make me nervous to drive in … for fear I am the only woman driver on the road who will find the obscure patch of black ice and go crashing into a telephone pole. Or worse still, a rambunctious reindeer who recently escaped from a small town Christmas parade finds my son on his way home in said unsafe car…

Anyway, you get the picture. I worry a bit about bad weather. I worry a lot about driving in it. I think I am getting old. Grandma genes are starting to settle in. And there is nothing like a taste of old lady frailty (read anxiety) to rob you of that peace within. I know you know what I am talking about. Seems fitting that this second week of advent is “peace” week. A gentle reminder to me to attempt to bring my heart back to that state of peace. Especially as we anticipate the nativity scene… all babies wrapped in swaddling clothes, quietly sleeping amongst the barnyard animals. (All the moms out there recognize that this, too, is far from a realistic scenario… barn animals, people… and what newborn isn’t screaming for food in the middle of the night?) but the story of Jesus’ birth brings our focus to a unique place: Bethlehem.

Let’s look at it a little shall we? I did a little digging and here are some”fun facts” I dug up about “Bethlehem, in the land of Judah”. In Hebrew, it is called “Beit Lechem” which roughly translates as the “House of Bread”. Perfect for Christmas holidays, I’d say. Warm toast brings me peace! Bethlehem is home to approximately 25 000 people… both Christian and Muslim. Interestingly, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in the U.S. is home to 800 000 Americans… who probably see just as many tourists!

The proposed “exact spot” where Jesus was born is marked by a silver star, that leads to an underground grotto or cave. Of course, the surrounding area is the tourist mecca for those seeking Christian history. With a large market for trinkets and a chance to profit from the bus tours. Maybe as much as Bethlehem, PA. I’m guessing either would be a cool place to visit… (dreamily look off into the distance… House of Bread… Amish baked goods…) Still, the Middle East has been far from a “symbol of peace” in recent years. Or the U.S.A, for that matter. Which brings us back full circle.

As you continue on in your Advent journey of faith, may you be prompted with thoughts of peace this week from the only One who gives true peace. And may your anxieties be comforted … even as you drive along the icy roads of life.

Photo: wiirocku Tumbler

Advent — Take 3

For this week, I thought I would do a little throwback to pre-Covid; to an earlier, simpler time before pandemics, mask-wearing and mass vaccinations. This post was originally posted in November 2018. Apparently, it was so good, I reposted it again in December of 2020. So, you’ll forgive me if I indulge you again in my great literary skills. As we enter this year’s advent season, the principles still stand. Maybe the thought of “preparation” and “waiting” is even more prevalent for us today. I’ve added some thought-provoking questions I found from a devotional of Will Graham on the topic of Mary. Y’all know I love Mary’s character. As always, I love to hear from you. How about telling me about your advent season? Be blessed this week, my friends!

image by Kelly Sikkema (unsplash)

I hate waiting.  I hate waiting in line, I hate waiting for my food to be cooked, I hate waiting for the kids to get out of school.  I just don’t like sitting around with nothing to do when something else should be happening.  I bring books or snacks or my phone or a crochet project on long car rides because my hands need to be doing something (or else I crash into a nap… which is a whole other story).

So, when I discovered that the real meaning of Advent was anticipatory waiting… I wasn’t too keen.  I don’t think many of us are good at waiting.  Have you noticed that radio stations are playing Christmas music already?!  The stores have been in Christmas mode since the day after Halloween!  The marketers out there certainly don’t like waiting!  They want us to be spending our dough faster and faster these days… no waiting!  Order now!  Direct ship!  Buy online!  Available 24 hours, seven days a week!  

Let’s step back for a minute. In case you are not familiar with the term “advent”… it is a traditional practice of the Christian church to anticipate the coming of Christ at Christmas, and then, in turn, His final return to earth.  Similar to the practice of Lent before Easter, it gives us a chance to slow down, think and ponder, and hope for the future.  It’s something I have to work on… this waiting.

My first exposure to advent was those cardboard chocolate calendars.

My first exposure to advent was those cardboard chocolate calendars.  The ones with the little doors you would open every day from December first until the 25th.  Back then, I didn’t understand what it meant… I simply enjoyed the treats every day!  Later, we began to celebrate the four Sundays of Advent at our church.  It was then, that I understood the symbolism, the tradition, and the true meaning of the practice.   It is something I have come to cherish as an adult.  It’s a discipline that that reminds me to slow down, to appreciate my family, to encourage my church family, and to rejoice in the season — and not to be so caught up in the rush of the “stuff”.  It forces me to focus each week on learning to wait.  To anticipate.  To revel in the beauty of hope.

Here’s what I have learned about the traditional advent symbolism:  it begins with an evergreen wreath… the symbol of a circle of eternity.  Our Christ is timeless.  He’s been around much longer than the babe in the manger.  Surrounding the wreath are four candles and one central candle.  Each candle is lit on the four Sundays of Advent and culminates with the lighting of the white, central candle, which is lit on Christmas eve.  This central candle is sometimes referred to as the Christ candle… and represents His purity and the sacrifice He made for us on the cross.  

The first candle is purple.  It represents “hope” and the prophecies that Isaiah spoke about when He described the coming of our special Christmas baby.  The second purple candle represents love and is sometimes referred to as the Bethlehem candle or the manger candle.  So much love happened in that lowly stable… I imagine my own beloveds and how the whole world fell away the moment they were born and I saw them for the first time face to face.   Can you imagine Mary’s first glance at her special baby?  Yup, love for sure.  The next candle is pink… and represents joy.   It is the shepherd’s candle.  It embodies the joy and celebration the shepherds must have felt when they were given the good news that a Saviour had been born!  The last candle is also purple and reminds us to be peaceful.   This “angel” candle points us to worship, to reflect, and to remember that the season is not about gifts under a tree, but the ultimate gift given to us.  The One the angels were made for… simply to worship for eternity.  

The following is taken from Will Graham’s book, In the Presence of the King.

“And Mary said: ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.’” —Luke 1:46-49, NKJV

After her initial response {of fear}, Mary embraces her calling as the earthly mother of Jesus. In what is called “The Song of Mary” (Luke 1:46-55), we see a young woman who considers herself blessed, who rejoices!

Of course, the story doesn’t end there, and things don’t get any easier. Mary, at the end of her pregnancy, must endure the trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem, at the end of which she delivers the Christ child in a manger.

As you enter this Advent season, maybe this year hasn’t gone how you planned. Maybe you expected your life to be much different than it is. Perhaps you’re even mad at God and blame Him for your circumstances. In what ways has the past year been a struggle? How have you seen God work through your situation? Are you able to worship Jesus amid the challenges?

So… as you prepare for your Christmas season, and you rush out here and there, be reminded of the advent tradition of waiting.  Take time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas… Christ’s coming.  Anticipate through hope, love, joy and peace, and the pure and holy sacrifice that Christ paid for you.  May you be blessed, my beloveds, as we journey towards the holidays together.   Take time to rejoice in waiting.  Oh… it shall be no easy task!  Especially if there are Christmas cookies in the oven! But we can practice it together, shall we?