Daily Devotion - Friday, December 18, 2015
This is the third week of the season of Advent. Throughout the season of Advent we'll be focusing on what it means to be full of expectation and anticipation during this blessed time of year. We'll also be lifting up the various weekly themes of Advent, corresponding to the lighting of the candles on the Advent wreath. This week our theme is "Joy."
Yesterday I officiated at a communion service at one of our local assisted living communities. As part of the service I offered a short homily. Homily, in case you were wondering, is a Latin word that means "short sermon." I can't really back that last claim up, honestly, but at any rate it was a short sermon, of sorts.
I'd intended my homily to be about joy, since it was the theme this week for the Third Sunday of Advent. As I stood up to speak, however, I was struck by a feeling that the words I'd prepared were woefully inadequate for that particular moment. I think I had planned to say something or another about having joy in your heart all of the time, and how having joy would change the world around you. Great sentiments, to be sure.
But as I looked out over the small crowd of older adults who had gathered, I realized that my cheery sentiments weren't going to cut it. Every person there was struggling with physical issues. One was confined to a wheelchair and the others were using walkers to get around. In a rush a question came into my head, "How do you find joy in your life, when your life has been diminished by age, illness, circumstances, tragedy or a host of other things?"
And in a flash, the word came to me: Trust.
I paused before I spoke and then I shared what God had placed on my heart, not what I had prepared. You see, the basic element that is required for true joy--the joy of the Lord--is trust. When we live our lives in fear of tomorrow, in bitterness over our present circumstances, or regretting the past, we are demonstrating our lack of trust in a God who loves us and who gave himself for us in the person of Jesus Christ.
But if we trust that God is good, and that through Jesus Christ God has already defeated sin and death for our sake, we should have no problem at all feeling joy in any circumstance. The Apostle Paul declared that he had learned "to be content in any situation, no matter the circumstances." This was a guy who wrote those very words while he was chained to a guard in prison.
If you truly trust God with all of your heart, then you will find deep reservoirs of joy to draw from no matter what is going on around you. You will find these reservoirs of joy because your trust in God has removed all of the fear, anxiety, bitterness, regret and anger that has kept you from finding them.
May you know what it is to truly trust God and to give him your whole life. May you be released from all of the things that would inhibit your trust, and keep your from feeling the joy of the Lord. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.