Sunday, November 28

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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.”

Reflector: Connie Takamine

When meeting with a group for the first time, our pastor, Mike Mather, likes to open with the question of “Where do you find joy in your life?” I have found that this brings a positive tone to start meetings and allows everyone to find out something about those in attendance. It is interesting to note that in meetings we had with our “porch guests,” they answered forthrightly and without hesitance, whereas in some of our church committee meetings our members were more hesitant.

But what is joy? In The Book of Joy, which is a conversation between the Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu, these two men who have experienced oppression exude joy and define it as sustained happiness. I was privileged to present Bishop Tutu with a special recognition from the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility soon after the ending of apartheid. Bishop Tutu does not just radiate joy, he crackles with it. Despite the many years he spent fighting an unjust system, Bishop Tutu not only lives a life of joy, but also one of gratitude and kindness.

In a study we did last year, “Finding Peace in an Anxious World,” we were introduced to a spiritual discipline called Examen. Although there is sort of a set ritual, it can be what you make of it. It essentially calls for making some time at the end of each day to reflect on the day and express gratitude. Happiness “experts” say that expressing daily gratitude for at least three things helps to bring happiness, as does doing at least one random act of kindness. In this season of Advent when we are in preparation for the “Promised Coming,” our lives often become frenzied, so take time out to reflect and give gratitude. Since in this pandemic time we may not be in person with people to do random acts of kindness, say a prayer for a friend.

We really are in the midst of changing ways with almost two years of being in a pandemic, political polarization, and continuing social discontent, but if we look for joy and happiness, and express gratitude and kindness, we can realize the reality that we do have many gifts and one spirit.

Prayer: Gracious God, joy is really a gift from you. We thank you for such a gift, and may we open our eyes in gratitude to the many gifts around us that we often do not see. Amen.