Advent Devotional Week 3: The Candle of Joy

Art for Week 3

The Way of Joy | Joy Of The Father


Abby Sidmore,
Acrylic on canvas

Artists Statement: For my advent piece I created an Acrylic painting on canvas. My painting is mainly inspired by the verse Luke 10:21 where Jesus is expressing joy through God’s wisdom and love. So, in my painting I chose to depict a scene where Jesus is showing his joyful praise of God, surrounded by nothing but the light God is shining down. To tie everything together I wrote a portion of the verse on the canvas that I felt best expresses the joy of Jesus in this moment. All in all, I hope that my piece will put a smile on the face of anyone who sees it by spreading the joy that Jesus so often had because of the good work of God.

– Abby Sidmore

The Way of Joy

Annalee Messina
Watercolor and micron pen on paper

Artists’ Statement: I painted my sister Tali doing something that brings her joy: reading a good book. She always finds the best ones.

Annalee Messina


Monday December 12 | The Way of Joy | Luke 17:11–16

Talia Messina

What fills you with joy? Is it full-bellied laughter that makes your cheeks burn bright? Is it when the dinner table is packed with good company? For some, it may be curling up with a book and a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter night. For others it may be singing and dancing with abandon to that song that makes you feel invincible.

Whatever it is, whether contemplative or exuberant joy, there is a thread that connects these experiences. They are in the now: They are only enjoyed to their fullest capacity when you are immersed in the present moment. The past and future don’t exist. But if that’s the case, how can you experience joy when the now feels rushed or heavy? Can joy still be present when the “most wonderful time of year” turns your mind to failed dreams and faraway friends or family? It can feel like the gaping space left by a pulled tooth that your tongue can’t help returning to. What do you do when your spirit senses a not-quite-rightness?

Friend, joy is not a feeling. It is a mindset.

Jesus came to heal our hearts and minds. Or as Paul puts it, when we focus on Jesus, we can have the “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). But what does this mean practically? Luke tells us that during Jesus’ ministry Jesus healed ten lepers, but only one returned “praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.” When Jesus saw the leper he said, “Your faith has healed you.”

Why did one leper respond with exuberant joy and gratitude, while the others didn’t? Like them, he was an outcast, separated from his family and friends because of his highly contagious disease. Like them, he knew that Jesus could heal him, and he called out for mercy. But if you read the story closely, Jesus does not tell the lepers that they are healed when he heals their physical wounds. He tells them to show themselves to the priests, an authority that would grant them entrance back into the community. It is only after the joyful leper returns that Jesus tells him, “Your faith has healed you.”

This leper lived in a faith-filled mindset grounded in gratitude to Jesus. It allowed him to experience joy because he gave the Savior—the fullness of God among us—due praise. To feel full and whole, begin with cultivating faith in the source of your healing: Jesus.

Where is the leprosy in your life—that thing that’s eating you up and closing you off to joy? Look back at your life last year, two, five, or ten years ago. Are you living the answered prayers of a younger you? Has your gratitude moved you to turn to Jesus in praise and thanksgiving, or do you continue to let bitterness and hopelessness fog up the lens through which you view your life?

If you don’t feel like you can reach for the fullness of joy that Jesus offers—tell him. Ask for help. Ask for guidance. Ask him to clear the cataracts from the lens of your life and instill in you a desire to pursue a joyful mindset. Jesus didn’t come to earth for you to do anything on your own strength. In her book One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp describes the relationship between joy and gratitude like this:

“As long as thanks is possible, then joy is possible…The holy grail of joy is not some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak experience. The joy wonder could be here!… The only place we need see before we die is this place of seeing God, here and now.”

Lean on your faith in Jesus. Let him in so that you can see him in the messy, raw, realness of life and be filled with the true joy of the Advent season.

Wednesday December 14 | The Way of Joy | Luke 10:21

Cameron Casey

A few weeks ago, I planned to meet a few friends for good food and drinks at Bonefish Harry’s. Last to arrive, of course, I circled the table hugging and patting everyone on the back. As I sat down and we settled in, the DJ’s voice came over the loudspeakers… it was music trivia night. With music blaring and the sound of muffled DJ announcements bellowing through the restaurant, we quickly realized that our time together would be different than we planned. It would be loud.

Of course, we weren’t the only ones there. While we were a bit annoyed, fighting the loud music to have conversation, others took a different path—we might call it the path of obedience. From the tables around us, about ten guests slid from their chairs and began to dance. Dances of every kind! Hips moving! Hands pumping! Heads bouncing! Right there, in the middle of the restaurant! Camera phones focused from every angle to capture the moment; to capture the joy! It was as if we had all been guests invited to a party—a very loud party—and only some decided to participate in its joy (Lk. 14:17-18). Still, their joy was contagious; their display of obedience to the call of the music was magnetic. Slowly, my friends and I stopped fighting the call. We began to talk less. Under the table, we let our feet tap to the beat. Timidly, we began to nod our heads to the music. With a shadow of delight, we simply shared the moment together.

Who were these ten partiers? Who were these vessels of joy? The priests of this holy occasion? They were little children.

The Bible tells a remarkable story of God—the ‘biggest’ reality of our world—partnering, exalting, and delighting in small, humble, and powerless people. Abraham and Sarah had little hope for the future but would bless the world (Gen. 12). Moses was called to defeat the Egyptian superpower led by Pharaoh (Ex. 3). David, the youngest; the small shepherd; the artist; would be king of Israel (1 Sam. 16). Pride and arrogance ignore Wisdom’s call (Prov. 8). Babies would declare the hidden Lord, who reigns above the heavens, to enemies and foes (Ps. 8). Mary rejoices that God has brought down the mighty and exalted the humble (Lk. 1).

Jesus’ delight fits this larger pattern. He delights in the lowly and the humble. In the chapter before, Luke records Jesus’ transfiguration—a glimmer of his divine nature and startling entourage—inviting with him just Peter, James, and John (9:28-35). I mean, wow…! What an experience that must have been! It’s no wonder that shortly after the disciples started to argue amongst themselves who was the greatest (9:46)—“You weren’t even there! I was!” shouts James. Only a few verses later, Jesus rebukes Jewish cities, like Chorazin and Bethsaida, who ought to have received his Kingdom and elevates the Gentile cities of Tyre and Sidon (9:13-15). Then, as if out of nowhere, Jesus gushes with joy. It’s our signal as readers to lean in… Jesus has a word for us: God hides from the wise and the powerful but reveals to children. There it is again, that remarkable character of God! I think Abby’s interpretation of Jesus’ joy fits in so well with those dancing children at Bonefish Harry’s.

It would be fine to stop there: the Father and Jesus by the Spirit delight in small things. God delights in small things. Alone, this is remarkable! Yet, this is just the half of it. This passage says more. It tells us about our humanity and our joy. Consider the human side of God’s partnership, delight, and revelation to small things. The small–our children–actually have something going for them! They participate in and model for the rest of us a fuller picture of humanity and the way of joy. God delights in revealing and giving to the small and the small, the insignificant, and the powerless delight in receiving from God and others. There is a beautiful fit. A mutual divine-human dance of giving and receiving, sending and welcoming, overflowing and embracing, creating a nova of joy. Could it be any other way? Do the ‘wise and intelligent’—obviously, a bit tongue and cheek—want to receive from, partner with, and delight in Jesus’ Kingdom.

Like many, I like doing things. I like to be independent. I like stepping in and helping people. But, if that is all I am—a self-sacrificer—I’m missing a crucial part of my humanity. I’m missing the part of me that, like those little children at Bonefish Harry’s, wants to let go and obey the call of the music, the call of God, to receive. Children, we need you. We need to see your delight in receiving from all people. Please, teach us your way.

Friday December 16 | The Way of Joy | Luke 7:11-34

Tom L.

smiled at the miraculous inbreaking of joy and wonder. It was prompted by a text message from my friend, Uhaju, an Arabic and Quranic teacher, asking, “When will you send me another worship song [about Jesus]?”

On the islands where I serve, men and women respect the prophets. Abraham, Moses, John the Baptist and Jesus—all are respected as teachers and prophets of God. It is a good and solemn thing to respect the prophets. It is a religious duty. This is not unlike the attitudes of the religious leaders in our passage.

But Jesus is not content with a respectful religious posture. He pushes people to think and to feel, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see?” He says of John the Baptist. And then he nudges them further, seeking to provoke them out of their respectful religious attitude, “A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.”

“More than a prophet?” They say to themselves, “Who can be more than a prophet?” This attitude is eerily similar to that of our island neighbors. Jesus keeps pressing them into unfamiliar territory, “The kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.”

“What is he saying? Is he calling us violent? How dare he! We respect our religious duty. We defend our faith.”

And then Jesus gives one final push. He says this generation is “like children sitting in the marketplace, calling out, ‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.’” They questioned and rejected John calling for repentance. And they also questioned and rejected the Son of Man for eating and drinking with sinners. Can you hear his provocation? The religious leaders have not allowed themselves to be led in either lament or celebration. Jesus, the Savior Messiah, the Good News, the source of all joy stands before them, breaking into their world, but they cannot see. They can only complain.

I have seen from experience how religious attitude deadens the heart. For every moment of joy, there is someone ready to question its virtue—ready to complain. Every holiday has its nay-sayers. Every cultural event has the ones who say, “They shouldn’t do that. It’s not in line withreligion.” Evenmusic,whichIslanderslove,isconsideredsinfulbythestrictestreligious leaders. And questions arise in the minds of islanders controlled more by law than by love—is it sinful to listen to music? Could our joyful events guide us to hell? These thoughts taint the joy of music and dance, planting seeds of doubt, guilt and shame. While religious impulses differ in America, the same forces are at work. We hide empty hearts behind proper, respectful, outwardly perfect-looking, ordered lives. We complain that others do not rise to the standard, but inside, we have only compliance, not joy—we fail to recognize the source of joy standing before us—Jesus breaking into our world, offering his hand to lead us into joyful song and dance.

My island brother Uhaju was this way. A religious and Arabic teacher—he did not like music.
He questioned it, thought it beneath him. But then the Savior softened his heart, filled it with love, and changed him. Now he wants music, and to worship God through it. He has stayed up all night memorizing the words to a song, allowing the melody and the words to fill him with joy. His joy is real.

Take a moment and reflect on what deadens your experience of joy. Remember that Jesus came eating and drinking to celebrate the inbreaking of his kingdom – where “the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” This is cause for joy. The things he was doing then He still does today. He is among us, saving, healing and waking the dead. Look to Jesus, our source of joy—rejoice and sing!

Take a moment to enjoy this song Uhaju loves. As you listen, reflect on what Jesus means to him and to you.


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