Advent of Joy

I should probably warn you up front that I may not be the ideal candidate to be writing a Christmas themed post. When I was single, my holiday decorating consisted solely of finding the pre-decorated 6 inch artificial Christmas tree I had once received as a gift, taking it out of its box, and setting it on a table. If I am by myself I very rarely listen to Christmas music, and I may have briefly dozed off one year during a performance of Handel’s Messiah at the Kimmel Center. I am more likely to feel rage over the absurd waste of the holiday-industrial complex that both distorts the holiday’s meaning and robs those in genuine need of help than I am to enjoy the parties, the lights and the songs. I’m a real hoot. I learned during a recent visit to the Barclay Farmstead that Quakers did not celebrate Christmas as they thought all days should be treated the same; I felt like I had found my tribe.

It could be, perhaps, that my shoes are too tight. It could be that my head isn’t screwed on just right. But I think the most likely reason of all is that my heart is 2 sizes too small. I am something of a joy-challenged individual, and I’m trying, again, to repent.

God is the most joyous being in the universe, and it was for the joy set before him that Jesus endured all that was required for our redemption. But before the courageous acts of the passion week he had to experience the scenes of helpless infancy in the manger. He came to dwell among us and began to bear witness of a different kind of life.

Wherever he walked and whatever circumstances he encountered, he brought an unhurried presence of peace and joy and rest. He bore witness that the kingdom of God was at hand. It was available to anyone who wanted it. Anyone who was poor or meek or mourning. Anyone who wanted something more and different from what the world had said was available. To those who had everything and those who had nothing, the good news was here. As Tim Keller has put it so well, “The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

Whether you look forward to this season all year or are just praying to get through it, the same grace and love and mercy are here. Jesus offered them to you when he offered his body. He invites us now, as his followers, to offer these same gifts through our bodies to those around us. Let us, with joy, bear witness to the light.

by Steve Lamp

Steve and his wife Melissa began attending Kingsway in 2014. Not normally prone to public displays of emotion, he wept during the first worship service and knew he had found home. As an avid reader, Steve believes the ideas we allow into our minds are critical to our spiritual formation. He enjoys exploring nature, playing and spending time with his two young sons and over-quoting his favorite authors, C.S. Lewis and Dallas Willard.