Good morning! Our advent devotional for today comes to us from Zoe Sueltenfuss. Zoe is a senior honors student with a double major in education and physics from Boerne, TX. Zoe has been very engaged with her faith during her time at TCU, having been a member of multiple campus ministries and serving as President of the International Christian Fellowship last year and President of Chi Alpha this year. If you’ve ever met Zoe then you know first hand her kind heart and the warmth of her smile, both of which radiate JOY to everyone around her. I have no doubt that you’ll find her words for us today to be beautiful and insightful. May they bring you JOY in the midst of this finals week as we journey through advent together. Blessings to you…
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.”
During my childhood, my mental picture of the Christmas season was of everyone doing their holiday shopping while surrounded by snow, all smiling and happy. Living in Texas, I soon had to adjust my expectations for the snow, but as I grew older, I also began to recognize that my idealistic vision rarely aligned with real life. Christmas is meant to be a time of celebration, but the season can also be filled with emotions such as stress and grief. The worries of our lives don’t disappear for the month of December, and their presence is often in tension with “the most wonderful time of the year.” In stressful times, whether trying to make space for Christmas presents in the monthly budget, operating under deadlines for work or school, or navigating family dynamics, the angel’s call to joy to the shepherds can feel like a very long time ago.
However, we can take comfort that the joy the angel pronounced is for “all the people,” not just for those physically present at the first Christmas. Jesus’ birth brought joy to everyone around Him – to Mary, who sang, “my soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” after being told that she would bear the Son of God; to the shepherds, who came “glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen;” to the Magi, who were “overjoyed” when they saw the star and came to worship Jesus; and to countless other people who experienced Jesus and were filled with joy. And as our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace, Jesus can still bring joy to us today.
One of the beautiful things about joy in the Bible is that it is based on the person of Jesus, not on our unpredictable circumstances. Jesus came that we might have life to the full, and He invites us to enter into His joy. In fact, when Paul is describing how to live out God’s will for us in 1 Thessalonians, the first item listed is to “rejoice always.” On some days, it’s easier to follow Paul’s instructions than on others. But because our joy is based on our faithful and unshakable God, we can rejoice in who He is and choose to look for the ways that He’s blessed us.
Joy is an incredible gift from God, but I still struggle with it. Sometimes it seems much easier for me to stay in the negative emotion I’m experiencing than to turn to Jesus and practice gratitude. However, every time that I’ve made the effort to give my heart and thoughts back to God, He has responded with abundant blessing and peace. My external situation might not be instantly changed, but I’m reminded that God is with me, and that is something I can rejoice in.
Jesus came to give us joy for all time. The Advent season will end, but our access to Jesus – and therefore our access to joy – will not. Joy is a free gift of God, but it requires an intentional choice on our part to set our minds on Him instead of the chaos in our lives. This Christmas season, let’s choose to rejoice in a God who came to be with us and to bring joy to all the world.
Let us pray.
You have been good to us in so many different ways, and as we reflect on the Christmas season, the gift of Your Son reveals to us how deeply You love us. Thank You for not only bringing us forgiveness, but also presenting us with hope, love, joy, and peace. In the midst of so many things going on in our lives, help us to fix our thoughts on You and rejoice in who You are. You are Emmanuel, God with us, and because You are with us through everything, we can find joy in everything. Thank You, LORD. Amen.