There’s a simple way to go through December in search of more connection with God. It’s called Advent, and this is Article #3 of our four-week series. You can find the first week on hope here and the second week on peace here.
Joy is something we immediately connect with smiles, friends, happiness, pleasure, fun—basically the stuff that’s been all-but-absent for many us this year. This Christmas, we don’t have to fake joy that we don’t feel: the good news is that we have access to joy even when we’re not feeling like Buddy the Elf. We just need to go in search of it.
Start by doing this:
- Light three candles: one for hope, one for peace, and one for joy.
- Take a deep breath.
- Consider this question in silence for 30 seconds:
What’s one time you remember feeling joyful?
For me, the first thing that comes to mind is the birth of each of my kids. The joy I felt was a new kind of joy. It was goodness I’d really never known before, and a bunch of intense emotions mixed together—amazement at the miracle and wonder of what I was holding; gratitude that something so precious was mine; happiness that something I’d wanted actually, finally arrived.
When we receive something that causes true joy, we want to tell people about it. Joy bubbles up and wants out, like with a birth announcement. Birth announcements (on Facebook, by text 60 seconds after the birth, or in the mail) are an overflow of joy. When we get good news, the joy wants out!
There was a birth announcement for Jesus, and it was full of joy, too. On the night of his birth, God sent some angels to share the joy of his Son’s birth with some people nearby:
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2:8-11
God didn’t just announce his birth—he said the joy was going to spread further. It wouldn’t just cause a passing smile and “oh good for them” moment. This baby was going to bring joy to ALL people. All means all—He came for all different cultures, career paths, levels of intelligence, economic status, levels of depression or anxiety, and any type of sin. Jesus’ birth announcement was unique because it wasn’t just for the proud Dad. And that’s still true: the joy is for you.
God went all out at this birth. He didn’t just send angels. He put a star in the sky! It appeared at the birth as a sign for any/all who were watching. Some guys noticed it and came looking for the baby it announced. When they found him, they found the joy that was promised by that angel.
In the story of these wise guys, we can see what comes first—the things we, too, can be doing if it’s joy we are looking for this Christmas. The wise men found joy in Jesus, but they did some other things first! We can do the same. And I mean, they’re wise, so that seems like a good idea.
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him… …the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11
The wise men who found the joy in Jesus:
- Observed—Saw the signs and noticed when God was doing a new thing.
- Searched—Asked questions, seeking, and following.
- Valued—Took time and money to go look; brought expensive gifts.
- Worshipped—Their intent was truly from a heart to know God.
If you’re in search of joy, then you’re in search of Jesus.
When the wise men found him, they exploded in joy. Their joy wasn’t from the pursuit of their own pleasure; it was from trying to find Him. They put forth a lot of effort in a search they weren’t sure about. But when they found Him, they got the payoff we would all love to have—happiness, pleasure, awe (and even though the Bible doesn’t say it, I’m sure they were smiling for weeks!)
These guys found joy because they were tuned in to God and what he was doing. This third week of Advent, spend some time asking yourself these questions in search of more joy:
- Are you noticing the signs in your own year? Can you see what’s shifted in your life? Do you wonder what new thing may be happening? Pay attention! Don’t let the promise of a vaccine tempt you to leave behind the signs of God’s work in your life this year in the hopes of “getting back to normal.”
- Are you actively searching for God? Are you asking for spiritual guidance from someone? Are you praying, asking God questions? Are you following him in small daily ways you know how to? Are you reading your Bible?
- Do you understand who Jesus really is? Do you know His value? Do you understand who God says he is? Do you know what the scriptures teach about him?
- Do you have a heart that wants God? Is your faith lukewarm? Are you offering him your gifts? Your best? Your time and talents?
If your year has been devoid of the normal sources of joy in your life, there’s an overflow of it available in Jesus. 2020 has let me see the places I was propping myself up with comforts, pleasures, and plans that satisfied me instead of heading back in search of the source.
Just this morning, I wrote a prayer to God, and you could say it too if you’d like:
Lord, Thank you for the ways this year has left me searching again for you and your joy. Thank you for taking away some things that were never going to give it and leading me back to you over and over—even if I kicked and screamed a little on the way. I want to seek and find your joy in greater and greater ways in the year to come. Amen