Tag Archives: Joy

Celebrating Christmas, the Invasion of History by the Creator God

advent candleToday we are celebrating Christmas, the invasion of human history by the Creator of Heaven and Earth. Over this last month we have celebrated the Advent – the time in which the church celebrated both the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent.  It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God.  That is a process in which we now participate, and the consummation of which we anticipate.

In this double focus on past and future, Advent symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals and a community of Jesus followers. We affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that He will come again. This acknowledgment provides a basis for Kingdom ethics, for holy living arising from a profound sense that we live “between the times” and are called to be faithful stewards of what is entrusted to us as God’s people.

So, as the church celebrates God’s in-breaking into history in the Incarnation, and anticipates a future consummation to that history for which “all creation is groaning awaiting its redemption,” it also confesses its own responsibility as a people commissioned to “love the Lord your God with all your heart” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.” It is like Franciscan Father Richard Rohr once said:

“We [believe] that the Incarnation was already the Redemption, because in Jesus’ birth God was already saying that it was good to be human, and God was on our side.”

Candles

About two hundred years ago the church began the tradition of lighting candles each Sunday of the advent.  Each of the candle represent a part of our awaiting for Jesus:

  • Hope
  • Peace
  • Joy
  • Love
  • The white, and last candle, is the Christ candle

Hope

Hope-candleHope is a powerful concept. It is a desire for a certain thing to happen…waiting, patience….hoping….trusting in something you can’t see or yet experience.  Hope can keep you going even when things are tough.

There is a yearning for deliverance from the evils of the world, first expressed by Israelite slaves in Egypt as they cried out from their bitter oppression.  It is the cry of those who have experienced the tyranny of injustice in a world under the curse of sin, and yet who have hope of deliverance by a God who has heard the cries of oppressed slaves and brought deliverance!

It is that hope, however faint at times, and that God, however distant He sometimes seems, which brings to the world the anticipation of a King who will rule with truth and justice and righteousness over His people and in His creation. It is also a hope that is built upon the historical truth that God is on the side of humanity because of He has already come once and has broken the chains of sin and evil that bind us.

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.  (Titus 2:11-14)

Lighting the Hope Candle

Reader: Every year we light candles as we prepare for the coming of Christ
More and more candles, more and more light
As we watch and wait for Jesus, the Light of the World

All: God of Promise, come into our darkness
Renew your hope in us,
For you alone bring life out of death.

Reader: Receive God’s promise of hope from Psalm 33:
The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him,
On those who hope is in His unfailing love,
To deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.

All: We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.
In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name.
May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord,
Even as we put our hope in You.

peace-candlePeace

Peace is normally defined as the absence of conflict or sound. We, however, looked at how this word is defined differently God’s story. Peace is a state of being, a sense that all is well, of tranquility and contentment in life… There is a sense that we can crawl into God’s lap and have that peace – a wholeness that comes with being with the One who Made Everything.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

Lighting the Peace Candle

Reader: Every year we light candles as we prepare for the coming of Christ
More and more candles, more and more light
As we watch and wait for Jesus, the Light of the World

All: God of Promise, come into our darkness
Renew your hope and peace in us,
For you alone bring life out of death.

Reader: Receive God’s promise of peace from Psalm 4:
Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
The Lord will hear when we call to him

All: Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord
We will lie down and sleep in peace,
For you alone, O Lord, make us dwell in safety

joy-candleJoy

Joy is a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. Normally we think that joy only comes when things are right and everything is going smooth. Yet, in reading the Holy Scripture we find that we can have joy not based upon fleeing emotions.

Our joy is based God’s presence and the knowledge that He came down into human history and set loose the chains that bound us. We are free from sin, evil and death!! No longer do we have to live under the yoke of darkness, but can thrive under the light of God!!

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

Lighting the Joy Candle

Reader: Every year we light candles as we prepare for the coming of Christ
More and more candles, more and more light
As we watch and wait for Jesus, the Light of the World

All: God of Promise, come into our darkness
Renew your hope and peace and joy in us,
For you alone bring life out of death.

Reader: Receive God’s promise of joy from Psalm 28:
Praise be to the Lord
For He has heard my cry for mercy
The Lord is my strength and my shield

All: My heart trust in Him, and I am helped
My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song

love candleLove

Love one of the most powerful things on the planet. It can be both an emotion and a decision. When things get tough and relationships are hard, we don’t stop loving just because we lost an emotional feeling. There is a decision that keeps us going through the pain and rough parts of life.

When God created the heavens and the earth, he did something very unique. He made man and women in his image and breathed life into them. He gave them the freedom to choose to follow Him or not to follow Him. It was a risking decision that could mean the destruction of everything God made. But he did it because he loved us!

And even after we turned out backs on Him, He loved us. So much so that He invaded our history to set us free from sin, evil, darkness, pain and death.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  -1 John 4:9-10

Lighting the Love Candle

Reader: Every year we light candles as we prepare for the coming of Christ
More and more candles, more and more light
As we watch and wait for Jesus, the Light of the World

All: God of Promise, come into our darkness
Renew your hope, your peace, your joy and your love in us,
For you alone bring life out of death.

Reader: Receive God’s promise of love from Psalm 36:
Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
Your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains
Your judgments are like the great deep
You save humans and animals alike, O Lord.

All: How precious in your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.
They feast on the abundance of Your house
And You give them drink from the river of Your delights.

adventchristcandleThe Christ Candle 

Just like the Father Rohr quote read at the beginning of this post, Christmas is the forerunner for Easter. In Christmas God was saying that it was good to be human and that He was on our side. We are free from the guilt, pain, sin, and evil that bounds us because of the birth of Jesus marks the beginning of the invasion of human history by God Himself!

We live between the times – between the first and second Advent of Jesus. We live with both victory and defeat, pain and healing. Yet throughout it all, we proclaim that Jesus is King!

All hail! Let there by joy!

Hail to the King, hail to the King.
Blessed is He, blessed is He.

The peace of earth to Him;

The joy of heaven to Him.

The homage of a King be His
King of all victory

The welcome of a Lamb be His,
Lamb of all glory;
The Son of glory down from on high
All hail, let there be joy.

Deep in the night
The voice of the waves on the shore
Announced to us: Christ is born!
Son of the King of kings
From the land of salvation,
The mountain glowed to Him,
The plains glowed to Him,
Then shone the sun on the mountains high to Him.
All hail, let there be joy.

God the Lord has opened a Door.
Christ of hope, Door of joy!
Son of Mary, hasten Thou to help me!

In me, Lord Christ, let there be joy.

Joy: An Advent Post

joy 2In our series so far we have talked about Hope and Peace. Today we are going to talk about Joy, that emotion of pleasure and happiness.

Because we live in a world full of darkness and pain, it is easy for our joy to be restricted and swashed.  Yet if our hope is in the promises of God and our peace is in knowing Jesus, then our joy should not be controlled by our circumstances but, instead, it should be based upon one thing and one thing only:

That God Himself came down into human history and set loose the chains that bound us. That God Himself freed us from sin, evil, death and all darkness. We no longer have to live under the yoke of darkness, but can thrive under the light of God!!   

Sorrow, no matter how painful it may be, should not take away our joy. As the Prophet Habakkuk said:

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  –Habakkuk 3:17-18

Victory also should not control our joy. In Luke 10, when the 72 returned to Jesus after their mission to tell people about the Kingdom of God, it says they “returned in joy” because the demons submitted to them in Jesus’ name. Instead of rejoicing with them, Jesus replied:

“I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.  -Luke 10:18-20

We are to be joyful regardless of victory or defeat. Why? Because the King has come! We know the One who Created the Heavens and the Earth!  This is why St. James could say:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 1:2-4

Or the writer of Hebrews could say:

Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. – Hebrews 10:32-35

Or St. Paul

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.2 Corinthians 8:1-2

St. Paul also declared in  2 Corinthians 7:4 that his “joy knows no bounds” despite all his troubles. And what were those troubles, we may ask? Well, in the previous chapter, St. Paul describes the physical beatings, imprisonments, hard work, sleepless nights and hunger that he has gone through. Yet in the middle of all that, he still stands up and declares that his “joy knows no bounds!” Amazing!!

If joy is simply an un-controlled emotion, then this would be impossible. But it is not!! Joy is a choice, a frame of mind – nay – it is a way of re-seeing the world around us through the eyes of Jesus. It is also a fruit of the Spirit of God, something that comes through knowing and walking after Jesus.

Joy to the World

This brings us right back to Christmas and to a group of outcast people, i.e. shepherds. True, some of Israel’s great heroes were shepherds — Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David. Both Psalm 23 and Jesus compare God’s care to that of a Good Shepherd. But in the First Century, it seems, shepherds — specifically, hireling shepherds — had a rather unsavory reputation. Jeremias (German Lutheran theologian) cites Rabbinic sources to the effect that “most of the time they were dishonest and thieving; they led their herds onto other people’s land and pilfered the produce of the land.”

A midrash or Jewish commentary on Psalm 23:2 reads, “There is no more disreputable occupation than that of a shepherd.” Philo, a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher of Alexandria (25 BC – 45 AD), wrote about looking after sheep and goats, “Such pursuits are held mean and inglorious.”

It was to these outcasts, folks outside the normal places of society that the angels of God appeared  (Luke 2:10-12)

“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. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

The long awaited Messiah had come!!! The world is going to be different!! Joy in all circumstances was now available through the invasion of God in human history.

Celtic Advent Prayer

God of the watching ones, give us Your benediction.

God of the waiting ones, give us your good word for our souls

God of the watching ones the slow and the suffering ones, give us Your benediction,

Your good word for our souls that we might rest.

God of the watching ones, the waiting ones, the slow and the suffering ones, 

and the angels in heaven, and the child in the womb, give us your benediction,

your good word for our souls, that we might rest and rise in the kindness of your company.