• Steven Marsh

Joy Filled: a Reflection on Zephaniah 3:14-20, Isaiah 12:2-6, Philippians 4:4-7, and Luke 3:15-18

“Faith is confidence in the person of Jesus Christ and in his power, so that even when his power does not serve my end, my confidence in him remains because of who he is,” notes Ravi Zacharias.

Today is the Third Sunday of Advent. We have lit the Hope, Peace, and Joy candles. Advent ties the coming of the Christmas child, Jesus, to the climax of redemptive history with the Second Coming of this “Christmas child.” This Third Sunday of Advent focuses on the Joy candle. My friend Dr. Steve Hayner defines joy this way, “Joy is not about my circumstances, but rather about being held and sustained by God’s love.”

We need faith in the One who promises to reign over all of life despite circumstances that we find deeply disturbing and troubling. Despite troubling circumstances, Jesus is still who he says he is…Savior and Lord…personal and engaged…suffering and evil do not have the last word. Experiencing joy is possible despite the headlines in the news. Trauma can demoralize the human spirit. God is the giver of joy, which is being held and sustained by God’s love, in the midst of such horrific occurrences.

We need the Christmas child, Jesus.

Mary and Joseph prepared for the birth of Jesus Christ. John the Baptist prepared the way for the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.

The way of the Lord is prepared by ordinary people, like you and me. God has chosen you and me to prepare the way. We participate in God’s limitless future rather than being bound by the limitations of our present circumstances. Joy promises a new and better way to live.

Do you know how loved you are? Joy emerges from that contentment.

When Stephen Colbert, the host of CBS’s The Late Show, was 10 years old, his father and two of his brothers, were killed in a plane crash. Stephen was the only child still at home with his mother in the years that followed the tragic plane crash. Colbert was asked how he dealt with the death of his Dad and two brothers without becoming angry and bitter. The GQ interview examined Stephen Colbert’s faith:

[Colbert said], “I was raised in a Catholic tradition … That’s my context for my existence, is that I am here to know God, love God, serve God, that we might be happy with each other in this world and with him in the next—the catechism. That makes a lot of sense to me. I got that from my mom. And my dad. And my siblings.”

“I was left alone a lot after Dad and the boys died. … And it was just me and Mom for a long time,” he said. “And by her example I am not bitter … She was … broken, yes. Bitter, no.” Colbert said that even in his mother’s days of unremitting grief, she drew on her faith that the only way to not be swallowed by sorrow, to in fact recognize that our sorrow is inseparable from our joy, is to always understand our suffering, ourselves, in the light of eternity.

Stephen Colbert allowed joy to change his experience of tragedy…suffering. So can you. Joy changes things. It is contagious. A life lived “in joy” lifts up those who suffer and feel as an outcast.

Believe in Jesus, the Christmas child, as your Savior. Receive God’s love for you by faith. Be overcome by joy. You are being held and sustained by God’s love. This is the good news of Advent.

(Scripture readings are taken from Year C in the two-year daily lectionary cycle which follows the liturgical calendar and begins on the First Sunday of Advent.)

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