This year, we decided to do a few fun themed days through the Advent season. Since Sunday was Joy, we did Christmas Character Sunday and invited our church family to dress up. Pastor Chad wore a Buddy the Elf T-shirt, others wore light up reindeer shirts, and elf hats. I thought it was pretty fun idea. I decided that I was going to paint my face and wear my favorite reindeer headband that I’ve been wearing for years at my house whenever we put up the tree, and on Christmas morning. One of our door greeters, Mary, also dressed up as Rudolf the red nose reindeer.
As we unpacked Joy, we found that it is one of the expressions listed in a set of verses, that many call the fruit of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Sometimes joy is the quietest thing like Jesus being birthed into the world. No horns of announcement that He is coming. No pomp and circumstance sounding the arrival. Just a quiet star in the sky, a few wise men, and His cry. When Jesus is birthed into our hearts, joy just quietly rises up from this deep inner place and permeates everything, as we gaze at His beauty. Can you see how joy is sandwiched between love and peace, right between the God who is love and the Prince of Peace who is joy displayed in all its glory?
Pastor Chad said, “Joy depends on Jesus and happiness depends on happenings.” Right there in these two verse, as that fruit of the Spirit is being rolled out in a forward and lavish display, joy is leaning right into the One who is peace. Isn’t God’s word wonderful?
When we know that the One who is Love – Loved us – joy comes ushering in peace. So what happens when we forget that? What happens when we forget that God so love us that He sent His only Son to die for our sins? Do we not start to rely on what’s happening to help us find happy? Oh, but what happens when happenings shake our joy? What happens when happenings are not exciting, fun, or maybe even if they are painful? Then what?
For most things and situations I am able to set aside what is happening around me. I have good focus. I am able to hone in on what I want to think about and what I do not want to think about. This ability to choose and the strength of the ability to focus was given to me by the Lord as a gift very early in our walk together. It has served me well as I have practiced it. Self – discipline at first feels like work and in no way feels fun or enjoyable. Yet, I practiced and practiced, learning to quiet my mind and heart with moments and times of silence and stillness. Most things bounce off me and don’t stick to me. Other people’s emotions and outbursts may bleed out on me, they irritate for a moment, but I refuse it the ability to ruin my day. But there is one thing that shakes me – chaos and confusion. The hardest times for me to keep my eyes on Jesus and reap the joy that comes with Him, is when nothing makes sense and I do not understand. I just recently walked through one of these seasons. It started with feeling like life was loosing its luster and suddenly everything felt dry. My mind kept telling me that I was bored and my feelings were wrapped up in a mixture of wanting to run for my life and fits of anger. While much of that can be overcome by persistence and patience and keeping my mouth shut, I just could not see the connections of what the Lord was trying to teach me. And that happening… is the happening that shakes me! It causes doubt and waves beating against my soul causing a lack of confidence. It was hard and frustrating. Sometimes down right depressing and pulled me into a deep desire to numb out so that I didn’t have to feel it.
I could have quit and I could have dropped out of everything and hid away but I know better. I know that the only way is through and it is done by perseverance until we remember again! Remember that there is a God who loves us and sent His Son to die for us. It sounds so simple but sometimes the heart and flesh just want instant gratification and fights us tooth and nail to get it. But when we remember, not just know it but experience the Spirit of God turning on the light for us to see His sacrifice and love all over again: JOY COMES RUSHING IN!
Lord help us remember and bring us the Joy of your Salvation!
All is grace,