Advent 3: Joy – Claire Black
When I was a kid, I loved decorating the Christmas tree. It was tradition for my dad and I, as official Kelly family tree-seekers, to find the perfect Kelly tree. Not quite Charlie Brown, not quite full-bodied. Somewhere in between. One that spoke to us. No. Sang to us. When we saw that one tree with the slight kink in the trunk, or the lonely branch reaching skyward, or the bald spot around the one side. When we found that tree, we knew. Where other people saw imperfection, Kellys praised character.
I remember sitting in front of the tree long into the evening. Watching every twinkling light, taking in every quirky decoration, recalling the story behind each one. It was a time filled with peaceful reflection, wonder, and anticipation. Looking back, these rich memories feel almost magical; they stand out in my mind as moments when I felt joy. In essence, all was right with the world, though my world was quite small. I felt peace. I felt safe. I felt like I belonged.
Tradition helps us to feel rooted in this life. We take comfort in the repetition of significant acts. Often, repetition creates meaning. Customs that carry a story. Beliefs that have helped form our thinking or our way of seeing the world. Today, many traditions have been lost or forgotten. We have traded traditions, customs, and beliefs for instant gratification and distractions, which may evoke similar responses at first but tend to leave us empty and less invested than we had hoped. It is confusing to see the world prescribe value to things that don’t line up with what we value, believe in, or what we know to be true based on our own experiences.
That’s where Jesus comes in. He is one tradition that is not a one-sided quick fix, or a waste of effort. One that will not leave us empty. (Confused, maybe, but God promises to walk with us, to never leave us or reject us, and to hear us when we call out to Him.)
Jesus stands in the gap between what we think we ‘should do’ and what He has called us to do. He bridges the gap between what the world values and what is truly valuable. He gives us a way through the uncertainty and confusion. Because His perfect love casts out fear we can experience real joy because of Him and what He has already done for us. Not because of what we think we have to accomplish or live up to. The truth is that Jesus, the one Gift that changed everything, is our highway to experiencing pure joy (yes, and peace, and love, and hope too!).
I pray that this season, you will be brave enough to lift up your head to God; that He will reveal any barriers between you and Him; and that you would be able to experience real joy this Advent, in the midst of confusion, sorrow, or unbelief. He is standing in the gap between what we see and what He sees, with his arms outstretched waiting to wrap you in a joy-filled, God-sized bear hug.
1 John 5:14-15