Finding Joy

ADVENT WEEK 3: Joy

How have you been taking the time to prepare to truly and fully celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ this year and prepare yourself for his return? What does this look like in your day to day life?

Everything in our lives will not go as planned, and people will frustrate us and cause things to happen. Disasters are common in many places around the world. Disasters can and do cripple people physically, mentally, relationally, financially, and in so many ways. How can we live with such devastation, such grief in our world?

Let’s continue our journey through Luke this week by looking at Mary’s (Jesus’ birth mother) response to her situation after she travels about 80 miles to see her cousin Elizabeth. Remember, the angel told Mary she would have a son and give birth to the Messiah and then she went to see Elizabeth who is also pregnant and will give birth to John the Baptist.

Luke 1:39-56 (CEB)

“Mary got up and hurried to a city in the Judean highlands. She entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. With a loud voice she blurted out, “God has blessed you above all women, and he has blessed the child you carry. Why do I have this honor, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. Happy is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill the promises he made to her.”

Mary said, “With all my heart I glorify the Lord! In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior. He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant. Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored because the mighty one has done great things for me. Holy is his name. He shows mercy to everyone, from one generation to the next, who honors him as God. He has shown strength with his arm. He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations. He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty-handed. He has come to the aid of his servant Israel, remembering his mercy, just as he promised to our ancestors, to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.” Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months, and then returned to her home.”

What stands out to you? Re-read the passage and this time try to see where you would be in this story. What character do you resonate more with? Or are you a bystander? What do you see, hear, feel (physically and emotionally)? This is one of those passages we can hear over and over, making it an ordinary passage of scripture.

Mary has just been told that she would give birth to a child, and she has not even been with a man. No one else in her community heard the angels proclamation to her, so they would have thought she committed adultry. This was a serious crime that was punishable by much more than just being sent out and told never to return. She faced the possibility of being stoned to death, and the child inside (our Savior, Jesus Christ) would have not survived.

How would you feel in this situation? We know what Mary did. Mary sang. She sang a song that gave praise and glory to God for how he has looked favorably upon her and how he will fulfill everything he has promised. I’m not sure about you, but when I hear bad news or know I’m about to walk into a bad situation, the last thing I want to do is sing. But this is what Mary did.

In everything she was facing with her family, her town, her husband, Mary still experienced joy. A joy beyond comprehension. She was more than just “happy” because happiness is an emotion that fades away based upon our circumstances. Mary experienced and proclaimed joy with what was happening to her. Joy is not an emotion, but a state we get to be in. God gives us this incredible joy so we can live in peace, even when everything else is going wrng or we do not think we can handle it. We keep the hope because we know God will keep his promises. We can live in love with those around us because God love us.

True joy is found in the person of Jesus Christ. Even when he was on the cross, I believe he still had the joy of God within him, even if he wasn’t happy about what was happening to him. If we allow God to work in our lives it is amazing what we are able to handle and what we see changed around us.

This advent season, with a week and a half left until Christmas, I invite you to take time out of your days and think about all God has done in the world, in your life. Think about what God is doing in the world and in your life. Thinking on this will help us remember all God has done and is doing so we can keep our hope and trust in him that he will continue to great and  mighty acts in our world and in your life.

Experience the joy that Christmas brings and allow it to transform your life so everyday is filled with incredible joy, joy from heaven.

Good Hours

OFFICE HOURS Ministry in the Marketplace Part 2

Last week, we focused on work being God given and how we have the opportunities to join Him in the restoration and redemption of the world. How has your week been different? Have you felt a greater sense of purpose for the work you do?

Our passage this week comes out of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5. Again, this translation is from the Common English Bible:

“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? It’s good for nothing except to be thrown away and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.” ~Matthew 5:13-16 CEB

What are some of the things you notice? This is one of those passages we seem to hear a lot, or at least I do. The part that is focused on is the final line, “In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.” We also hear about being the “salt of the earth.”

How does this apply to the workplace? We’ve already established we have been given the gift of work and we should do it to the best of our ability to give God the glory in all aspects of our life. Work is where we spend the majority of our time each week. We will go through highs and lows, frustrations and joys, separation and team work. This is the time of our week we have the opportunity to share the love and light of Jesus Christ to our co-workers (even if we work in a church). Not everyone at our work knows the joy, peace, and grace of Jesus Christ. So we get to show them by our actions, our words, and even how we think.

When I was younger, I used to love to put salt on my food. It didn’t matter what it was. Today, I have learned to cook the salt into the food to help the meat tenderize better and to give more flavor from the inside out. This is how I believe we should live out our work life as well. The joy of Jesus Christ in our lives shining through from deep inside us. This is how we let our light shine, how we can be the right kind of seasoning in the workplace. We not only do a better job because we are working to show the Kingdom of God; but our co-workers will also see a difference and seek to discover the joy of Jesus Christ in what seems to be the mundane and tedious work day.

Just as salt brings our the flavor of our food, we have the opportunity to generously share the love of God through Jesus Christ which seasons the atmosphere and souls around us and brings out the real person inside that God is working on.

Take this as a challenge: see how allowing the joy of Jesus Christ truly makes a difference in your life. Not just in Sunday worship. Not just at home. But when you are at work.

Be the salt and light in the workplace. It is possible because Jesus Christ is working in and through you.

*Note: The concept for this series we first published on http://www.seedbed.com “Sermon Series – Office Hours: Ministry in the Marketplace”