God of hope and peace, the third Advent candle is the candle of joy. In this Christmas
season we are reminded that we are a people of joy. But one immediately asks, is
it possible to rejoice when times are as difficult as they are presently. We are
reminded daily that the number of unemployed in our land has reached 5 million, with
nearly 10% of the working force looking for a job. There are thousands who only
a few years ago realized their dream when they purchased their first home, only to
be evicted and now live with relatives or in inadequate quarters. The city of Long
Beach, with a population of less than a half a million, has over 80,000 homeless.
Greed, crime and immorality are too much a part of life. Heavenly Father, many
during this Christmas season are finding it impossible to be joyous. They have so
little for which to rejoice. But Your Word is quick to remind us that if joy is a
feeling of happiness because of our prosperity or our good times, then joy would
be truly out of place. Then at least for this year we ought not to have a candle
of joy. Then the candle of hope, peace and love would alone be appropriate.
But Your Word, O God, teaches us that we are called upon to rejoice, not because
of our circumstances but because of the Lord Jesus Christ. He tells us to rejoice
when we are persecuted, when we are suffering. We are to rejoice because of Him
and His salvation. We hear Him say, “But you now have sorrow (because He was going
to die on the cross) but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice and your
joy no man takes from you.” He told a parable about a farmer who while plowing in
a rented field found a great treasure, and in joy sold all that he had and bought
the field that the treasure might be his. The disciples were soon to learn that
the treasure he found was salvation through Him. The source of the believer’s joy
is not found in possessions, prosperity or success, but in the salvation which is
ours because of the death of Christ on the cross.
We confess this morning, O Father, that we have looked in the wrong places for our
joy. We may not have looked for it in our circumstances, but often we are tempted
to look for it in our faithful church attendance, or our keeping of the Sabbath,
or our obedience to traditions and rules, or even to our belief in the Bible, but
we realize today that the source of true joy comes from a closer walk with Jesus.
He makes it very clear that it comes when we, like a branch, abide in Him. Forgive
us, Lord, and renew our joy even at times like these, by drawing us ever closer to
You, that Your joy might be our joy.