Saturday, December 4

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2021 Advent Devotional: In the Midst of Changing Ways – Many Gifts, One Spirit

Week 1: The Gift of Joy

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 3:9 – “How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you.”

Reflectors: Katie Warren and Di Beeman

This has been a difficult year. The idea of “changing ways” feels like somewhat of an understatement. We’ve been completely flipped upside down, violently shaken, and every time things begin to settle a bit the tremors start again. Through the pandemic so much has been lost, and it seems like literally everything has changed: direction, jobs, relationships, sacred spaces, gatherings, the supply chain, the labor force, finances…the list could go on forever. Yet, there are moments where all of that floats to the background, and little silver linings poke through the weight of it all and actually bring us joy.

In times like these it may seem just plain hard to find joy, or perhaps we simply lose sight of it; it may seem like joy is nowhere to be found, but it is all around us. It’s in the little things, the unexpected things, the weird things, the wonderful things. It surrounds us every moment of every day. The carefree laughter of a two-year-old playing or laying on the floor smiling at his infant sister. The mad dash of the dog running laps around the house chasing a ball. The brilliant colors of the sunrise and sunset. Watching deer run through open space in the foothills. Spending time unplugged and having conversations with loved ones. Playing games or watching sports. Joy is a silly bumper sticker on the car in front of you, it’s a song you haven’t heard in a long time, it’s in a text or phone call, it’s in a hug or an elbow bump or simply a smile (even behind the mask), it’s hitting all the green lights on the way to work, it’s hearing a moving sermon on Sunday morning, it’s listening to a brass quartet, it’s listening to the birds and the bees in the narthex, it’s getting to hear a world-famous concert pianist while enjoying an art show on a Friday night, it’s trying a new restaurant, it’s finally getting to go see a play or show live, it’s finding a Saturday to sleep in and eat pancakes, and enjoy time with the one you love, it’s finding a new show to watch on Netflix.

For us, one of the biggest gifts of joy is music. Singing together, playing music, or even just listening to the radio or the music on Sunday morning. Music has been what has really gotten us through all the changes in our life. It is a constant, something that we will always have and that will always be there in whatever form. Music is also an escape for us. In the midst of the negativity, the busyness, the chaos, the stress, music can take us somewhere else. It takes us to a place of beauty, calm, relief, peace, and ultimately joy. Joy truly is everywhere if we just take a second to look for it.

Prayer: God, we thank you for the multitude of ways we can experience joy. Help us to open our eyes and really see the joy that is all around us. Help us encourage one another to be intentional about finding joy, and about regaining sight of the little things that make us smile. Help us open our hearts and find joy in one another through love. Amen.