During this Advent season of preparation for Christmas, we have been focusing on themes of Home. Home is not only a place, but is a state of mind. We can see this in common phrases like “Home is where the heart is” or “Home is not a place, it’s a feeling.” This week, we’ll explore ways to embody joy as our default state-of-being. This may be particularly difficult for persons who experience difficulty during the Christmas season and/or those who suffer from depression. Even with these challenges, I believe that God calls us into experiences of true joy.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
16Rejoice always. 17Pray continually. 18Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19Don’t suppress the Spirit. 20Don’t brush off Spirit-inspired messages, 21but examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good. 22Avoid every kind of evil. 23Now, may the God of peace himself cause you to be completely dedicated to him; and may your spirit, soul, and body be kept intact and blameless at our Lord Jesus Christ’s coming. 24The one who is calling you is faithful and will do this.
Consider these questions:
- How do you define “joy?” Is it happiness, is it busyness, is it success? Something else?
- The text says to “Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in every situation…” What does that look like in your life?
- Is the instruction above reasonable or even possible?
Post-sermon update on 12/19
Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found by clicking this link (will open in a new tab).
Sunday’s message included a parallel between our current culture—described during the message as one filled with narcissism—and the audience Paul was addressing in the scripture. In both, there may be seen a sense of hopelessness and darkness. The early Thessalonian church struggled with patience, and we struggle as well. We are challenged in all of this on a Sunday where we are exploring “joy.”
But perhaps “joy” isn’t just an expression of being happy. Maybe it’s more. We considered Meriam-Webster’s definition of joy, particularly the receiving of that which is most desired. If we receive God’s life-giving and transforming grace and love, and respond in reflection of the light that has transformed us, we might understand all of this together as an experience and expression of joy!
The message closed with this quote from “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (a few shared that it was misunderstood or difficult to hear):
“That’s how we’re gonna win. Not fighting what we hate, saving what we love.”
Consider these questions:
- Has your understanding of joy shifted as a result of this exploration? If so, how?
- How do you practice self-care during the Christmas season? Especially if Christmas is a time of grief for you, how do you ensure that you are emotionally and spiritually cared for?
- With all of this in mind, how will you seek out joy this season? And how will you share joy?