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Unwrapping Joy — Advent Devotional III

Updated: Dec 24, 2019

Adapted from reflections by SP staff member Dale Helt.

As they play, these children in North Africa embody joy.

“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” - Luke 2:4-7 ESV

Imagine the joy Mary felt as she held Jesus for the first time, wrapping him tenderly in swaddling clothes and lovingly gazing upon his face. As parents, hardly anything is as beautiful as your newborn’s face.

And still, there are many things contesting for Mary’s attention in her harsh, dark world. They are citizens of an occupied nation; she and Joseph are poor; the birthplace of their son is of a cold stable and food trough made to be a crib; and likely, the cruel rumor mill circulates that she is merely a careless teenager having a child out of wedlock. But as Mary keeps her gaze on her son Jesus and the promises he embodies, her joy increases. She is filled with joy amidst the chaos of her world.

Joy is one of the marks of a Christian’s life. Joy is one of the core values of Servant Partners. Jesus says that as we enter into relationship with him, we have his joy in us and it is complete (John 15:11). But what about when joy seems elusive?

Joy is a gift that needs to be unwrapped. And to unwrap it, it needs to be practiced in all circumstances. Practicing joy looks like imitating Mary, gazing into the face of Jesus; looking for signs of his presence in our world. It involves practices of adoration and expectancy.

Joy does not require us to remove ourselves from our everyday lives, nor does it make us navel gazers. Joy desires to deepen and be shared, even when it means laying down our lives for the sake of the other.

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