Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. Luke 2:19-20
The third week of Advent began last Sunday – traditionally it is called ‘Gaudete’ or ‘Joy Sunday’. Joy is fundamental to Christian faith – a mystery greater than happiness and contentment, deeper than ecstasy and especially real in the midst of suffering. The epistles of Paul, James and Peter all confirm the truth that even though things are hard now, God is faithful and will bring about His perfect, merciful and just will in the end. Meanwhile, He uses the testing times to our advantage, to make us ‘mature and complete, not lacking anything’ (James 1:5). Peter spoke of our rejoicing at the wonderful ‘inheritance kept in heaven for us who through faith are shielded by God’s power’. (1 Peter 1;4-9) He looked forward to Christ’s second coming and while acknowledging the grief many suffer now, reflected on the ‘inexpressible and glorious joy’ the Holy Spirit gives us in believing in Him – even though our eyes have not yet seen the Lord.
Like us, the characters in the nativity story each had their burdens to bear; worries about the future, concern for their everyday lives, troubled relationships and crises of faith. May we follow the example of Mary and the shepherds, putting aside the undeniable pressures we face and indulge in some holy joy this Christmastime.
Prayer (as a couple)
O Holy One, we do rejoice at Your birth and praise You for the wonderful way You brought salvation to the world through coming, living and dying among us. Fill our heart with joy, not only as we look back but also as we look forward with the eyes of faith to the day when You will come again and set everything right. Amen
Prayer (for others)
Lord our Emmanuel, please bring joy to … and … in the midst of everything that is happening in their lives. Help them to place their trust in You and hold on to hope, now and in the months to come. Amen
Lord Jesus Christ; we welcome You into our hearts this Advent time.