A praise dancer interpreted joy as the carols were sung, the Christmas trees blazed, and the advent candle was lit. How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord (Psalm 84:1)!
We had gathered together to celebrate Immanuel – God with us. “Joyful, joyful we adore thee God of glory, Lord of Light!”
Yet, when we leave the sanctuary, how do we carry the joy of advent with us through the chaos of the season? Joy is not dependent on circumstance; it is dependent on hope in a sovereign God who loved us enough to come to earth.
Brilliant star, hay filled manger, rugged cross, and an empty tomb. Our joy is found in the hope of our Savior.
1. Shout! With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God (Psalm 84: 2). Focus on “shouting” your praise and thanks to God. Find a secret place, and speak your praise out loud. Raise your hands in praise. Dance! If you are an introvert, kneel and shout your praises in your heart. Do this every day of advent to set a pattern of joy for life.
2. Dwell with Immanuel, God with us. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young at a place near your altar. What joy for those who can live in your house . . . (Psalm 84: 4). Find time, even in the chaos, to draw near to the heart of God. He is with us. Be aware of His presence. Notice the gifts of His world – the red cardinal on the snowy pine; the glistening crystals of snow that refract light; the warm sun on cold days. He is nearer than your breath; talk to Him and enjoy His world.
3. Sing! What joy for those . . . Always singing your praises (Psalm 84: 4)! Music is a conduit of joy. It heals our souls. Play Christmas music in your car, and sing with it! Put together a caroling group and visit nursing homes or shut-ins. Sing with your children and grandchildren. Worship through song.
4. Find your strength in the Lord. What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord (Psalm 84:5). The Christmas season can be emotionally laden with disappointment, grief, loneliness and depression. Perhaps we grieve the loss of a loved one. Sometimes family tensions fly in the face of expected joyful reunions. Finances can be stressful with this season of gift giving. Maybe we are just exhausted from the holiday extravaganzas. Yet, the psalmist says when we rely on God’s strength, we will have joy. He strengthens us daily when we mediate on His Word. Even in our deepest sorrows, we remember that He hears us and loves us, and we find His joy. When we walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs (Psalm 84:6).
5. Trust in God. For the Lord is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right. O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, what joy for those who trust in you (Psalm 84:12). Even when life is hard, we trust that God will work all things for our good and His glory. When we do not understand what He is doing, we must trust His heart.
This Advent season cultivate joy as we celebrate the birth of our King!