Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Advent, Week 3: A One-of-a-Kind JOY!

You have shown me the path to life, and you make me glad by being near to me. Sitting at your right side, I will always be joyful. (Psalm 16:11, CEV)

On Week 3 of Advent, the traditional theme is Joy. Lighting the pink candle of the wreath reminds us that Christmas is just around the corner. With gladness we anticipate celebration of our Savior's birth.

But is it just the gorging and gifts that make us giddy? If so, then we are missing the entire point! In this season we become reacquainted with that one-of-a-kind joy that only Jesus brings. This is a joy that stands apart from the world's definition. Look back to Week 1 -- We are filled with the pleasant knowledge that relief is near.

It never ceases to leave me in awe when I ponder the notion that the Creator of the Universe loves me so much that He was willing to take on human form just to save me! He left the comfort and glory of His heavenly home just to launch our rescue. And not only did He become one of us, but He became the most lowly of us, being born in a stinky animal pen just to stay out of the cold. Never taking on a life of luxury or prestige, He poured out His life teaching by word and deed. And He took the humiliating, excruciating punishment for all my rottenness. Wow! What a God!

Reread our passage from Psalm 16:11 today. It sums this unique experience all up. "You have shown me the path to life..." After thousands of years of waiting for the Messiah, those who would be willing were clearly shown the guarantee of a full, never-ending life by Jesus. "...and you make me glad by being near to me." The deep joy of realizing that we aren't subject to some obscure, unknowable God, but One who is intimately present to us should fill our hearts to their bursting point! "Sitting at your right side, I will always be joyful." In the ancient world, the person who was most honored, who had the most authority sat at the king's right hand. (Thus, the term "right-hand man".) Realizing that our Maker keeps us close in such high esteem ought to only add to our perpetual inner contentment and peace.

Let me point out to you that joy does not always equal happiness, as we often falsely believe. Psalm 4:7, NLT says "You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine." This means our joy in Christ is a joy that transcends the circumstances of this world. Jesus gives a joy that surpasses the happiness of the wealthy, famous or successful. What He offers is deeper than the fun of the latest party or possession.

"...The joy of the LORD is your strength," says Nehemiah 8:10, NIV. This means that this solid connection to Jesus, this inner knowledge that God has you close, cares deeply for you and has everything under control can strengthen you and bring you joy despite any trial you may face. The Christmas season can be difficult on so many levels for different people. Grasp that unique joy that Jesus came to Earth to bring! It will make this holiday celebration so much more meaningful, no matter what you face!!!

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