Joy: The 3rd Candle of Advent

You can choose to rejoice
3rd Sunday in Advent 2018 JOY

Since the year 480, we Christians have been celebrating Christmas. Christ’s Mass, observing the incarnation of God’s gift of redemption to His creation. This is the 3rd Sunday in Advent, today in the light of the 3rd Advent Candle our focus is on the Joy of Christmas.

To prepare our lives to receive Christ anew and afresh the last two weeks we have concentrated on our need for God, on our need for repentance, that turning away from sin, and practicing righteousness.   We are moving from expectation to longing, to joy. This Sunday we are reminded to rejoice for in the promise of Jesus coming is healing and freedom and comfort. Christmas is a time of Joy, the joy of reconciliation, of being made right with God.

Maybe like my family, this Christmas is being celebrated without the voice of a loved one. Someone very dear and special is missing. That hurts. Sometimes the pain is so great you wish there was no such thing as Christmas. Everyone says be happy, but your heart is full of sadness. Maybe the cause of your melancholy is not due to a loss, a death, rather just that things have changed, life isn’t like it used to be.  I certainly have suffered from the Christmas Blues. What has proved helpful is to take that pain and feel it, cry my tears, speak my lament, but only for a brief time—5 minutes, 15, half an hour. Then stop, breath, there still is a whole lot of living to do, there’s still good experiences to create, ask God for His empowerment and get back into the now and live.  In the most difficult times I did this daily, sometimes a few times a day (Psalms 30:5).

There is so much that can pull you down. Societal stress with mounting frustration and anger can stress you out.  Financial stress as everything requires more and more and your paycheck is buying less and less. There is Family Stress with caring for an elderly parent, a disabled child, for providing, keeping your home a safe haven, keeping love alive and protecting your children. At the beginning of adulthood there is can be School Debt Stress and on the other end Retirement Stress, will you ever have enough? There is the stress of finding a good job and the stress that comes from declining health or a bad diagnosis. Here comes Christmas, and cultural pressures you to do things you feel obligated to do, not because you want to, but because it’s expected. Oh, it’s easy to see why some folks just want to skip Christmas.

The flickering flame on this third advent candle says rejoice. Here’s a secret that those who have suffered have learned about joy: “The deeper sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” (Kahil Gibran) Contemplate that just for a moment—The deeper the sorrow, the more bitter the drink, the darkest of hours, carves, it cuts, it bores into you, into the very foundation of who you are, what you believe, leaving an empty space within you. How painful the cutting, how terrible the scars. What can that empty space be filled up with? You can choose to fill it with joy.

We're not talking about the joy that comes from happenings, rejoicing because something grand and glorious just occurred.  The joy you want to fill the empty spaces in your soul that pain and suffering have left is the joy that comes with the certainty of God’s faithfulness to you and customized love for you.

Habakkuk 3:17-19 (MSG)
Though the cherry trees don't blossom and the strawberries don't ripen,  Though the apples are worm-eaten and the wheat fields stunted, Though the sheep pens are sheepless and the cattle barns empty, I'm singing joyful praise to God. I'm turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God. Counting on God's Rule to prevail,  I take heart and gain strength. I run like a deer. I feel like I'm king of the mountain!

Take heart because God will prevail.

2 Timothy 1:12 (NLT)
“… I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.”

Gain strength God will prevail.

2 Corinthians 1:20 (NLT)
For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!”

Rise to the top God will prevail

Romans 8:37-39 (NIV)
“…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

“Joy is an act of resistance against despair and its forces.” (Willie Jennings)
Rejoicing is not about trying to pretend you're not in pain. You have the choice to rejoice in the midst of suffering because of Jesus, who has secured and now guarantees a future joy for all those whom He redeems. “I will not be anchored to the past, I will run into the future with great expectations by living today to the fullest.” (Willie Jennings)

Philippians 4:4 (NIV)
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Rejoice in Christ. He has redeemed your life from the pit, from Hell, from eternal separation from God. (Galatians 3:13) He rescued you from self-destruction, from the self-made prisons of our habits attachments and addictions. (Luke 4:18)  He has restored a right mind and given you a right heart (Ezekiel 36:26). He has set you free to make your own choices. (John 8:32)  He has empowered you to live your life to the full. (John 10:10)

1 Thessalonians 5:16 (NIV)
Be joyful always…

Joyful because Christ lifted you from your dead-end way of living and placed you into His family, God in Christ has adopted you as His child, made you a co-heir of the Kingdom, given you brothers and sisters in the faith, a place to belong, people to love.  He has opened your spiritual eyes so that you can see the light and empowered you to walk in the light. He has opened your spiritual ears so that you can hear His voice and sense His presence. He has declared you precious, made you righteous, set you apart as holy. 

Psalms 97:12 (NIV)
Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous, and praise his holy name.

Rejoice your name is written down in the Lamb’s book of Life. (Revelation 21:27) God fights for you, walks with you, provides for you. (Exodus 14:14, Psalm 23:4  , Philippians 4:19)  You are delivered from the power of darkness and made a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. (Colossians 1:13, Phil 3:20) There is a reward waiting for you in eternity (Colossians 3:23-24). A place has been prepared for you. (John 14:3) The dead in Christ will rise. (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17)  He has placed His Spirit in you. (2 Corinthians 1:22) You shall be satisfied, made complete in him and possess every spiritual blessing (Colossians 2:10, Ephesians 1:3), we will become like Him (1 John 3:2).

Romans 12:12 (NIV)
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Why? Because the troubles we have experienced in this life, this huge mountain of problems, these deep valleys of sorrow, the pain we have endured will one day…One day we will consider them but light and momentary sufferings whose significance faded away, whose pain no longer stabs in old wounds, one day they will matter no longer (Romans 8:18, 2 Corinthians 4:17-18).  

This 3rd candle is light not to remind us to rejoice in our circumstances but rather rejoice in the God who in His coming to us, His drawing near, setting all things right. (John 1:14, Revelation 21:3)

Have you drawn near?
These great gifts from God must be appropriated in faith. You must draw near. Let the light of this candle illuminate your separation from God. See that great gulf that separates you from the life you have always been meant to live.  Let the light of this candle remind you that God comes to you in Jesus, that Jesus bridges that chasm of separation. (Acts 2:21)  Draw nearby talking that bridge. Cry out “I need a savior,” (Romans 10:13)  “I need to be rescued,” “I need a deliverer, an advocate, a champion.” Cry out “I choose Jesus,” “I renounce my old way of life,” “I commit to living under the rule of God.” Do so and you will discover that the joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10), the light of the World will shine in you.

If you are a believer and dreading this Christmas season, let the light of this 3rd candle remind you that you are free to choose how you will celebrate, mourning the past and the what ifs, you can do that, but only for a moment not a season, then looking forward to a glorious future, and living in the now, making new memories with loved ones, with friends and family. Recall all the reasons you have to rejoice. God will not fail you. (Deuteronomy 31:6-8)


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