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Monday, December 10, 2012

Advent Week 3- JOY

 "When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh." Matthew 2:10-11
All the songs say it. We should be jolly and joyful at Christmastime. Joy to the World, Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee, Have a Holly Jolly Christmas, etc. So, why do I often not feel so jolly this time of year? What steals my joy? Life is often a battle for real joy. Life is hard and joy is, at least for me, not a normal reaction to stress and boy is there a lot of stress during the holidays.
This is one of my favorite quotes-
"The really wonderful moments of joy in this world are not the moments of self-satisfaction, but self-forgetfulness. Standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon and contemplating your own greatness is pathological. At such moments we are made for a magnificent joy that comes from outside ourselves.”
John Piper, Don't Waste Your Life
Why were the wise men overjoyed when they saw the Christ-child? They were full of exceeding joy because they got to lay their eyes on the one who is the source of all joy, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who had come down to earth for them! 
I know my temptation at Christmas is to try really hard to find joy in celebrating and shopping and decorating but as much fun as all those things can be, true joy can only be found in God Himself. My prayer this December is that I won't wait until all the Christmas preparations are done or until I open the perfect gift to find complete JOY in the one who came to earth to bring true "Joy to the World".
"You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." Psalm 16:11
Joy to the World , the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Advent Week 2- LOVE

"Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine,
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign."
Christina Rossetti
My focus this second week of Advent is the LOVE of God that came down at Christmas when Jesus was born.
Jesus was and is the perfect display of God's love. God is love, true love, and sending His Son to earth, for us, is a perfect picture of His unending love for us. One of my favorite passages of scripture is Zephaniah 3:17. I can feel God's love instantly wash over me as I read it.
"The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing."

Wow! The God of the universe rejoices over me, loves me and exults over me with singing! What a beautiful picture. But, what's even better is the fact that the LORD our God is in our midst. When the angel visited Joseph and explained to him the awesome blessing Mary would bear, he told Joseph the name of the child was to be not only Jesus but Emmanuel, God with us. 

"Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
  and they shall call his name Immanuel”
 (which means, God with us)."
(Matthew 1:18-23 ESV)

Jesus who was with God, ruling and reigning with Him in heaven, humbled himself and became a baby so that he could be "God with us" and ultimately save us from our sins by his death on the cross. Wow, what love! That is perfect love.

"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

Last week I mentioned that every time I turned on my Christmas lights I prayed I would remember that Jesus is the LIGHT of the world. This week, as I look at the baby Jesus in my nativity set; I pray that I would remember that "love came down at Christmas". But not only that, I pray that this Christmas season I would remember the words of the Apostle John in 1John 3:16, "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers."
What am I doing, right now, to lay down my life for my brothers? How am I investing my time and my resources in my family, my friends, my neighbors, etc. in a way that displays the love of Christ that God has so richly allowed me to receive?
"We love because he first loved us." (1John 4:19 ESV)