One young man in my congregation is a particularly positive influence. He uses a wheelchair, and his engaging spirit and his smile are infectious. His attitude and demeanor have changed our congregation. And I have known many others who bring joy and affirmation to the lives of others. We all need these positive people. Our lives are made all the more joyous when we can create optimistic outlooks and outcomes in others.
Certainly, the psalmist understands this too. Life isn’t all negative. Life is a journey of joy and gratitude—especially when we recall the wonderful gifts of our Creator God.
In the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet I keep a small cardboard box filled with an assortment of cards and handwritten notes. These letters, which I have collected over thirty-five years of ministry, are mostly letters of appreciation I keep because I have discovered that I need these reminders of friendship, helpfulness, and love. I need them when the outcomes of my work don’t seem so rosy and I am tempted to believe that life is a crock—filled with nothing but darkness and despair. Reading one of these letters during difficult days reminds me that life may have tears, but it also has joy and hope.
What are some of the ways that you recall God’s goodness? Perhaps you have rituals, special times for reflection, or even a corner of your home dedicated to these visual reminders.
We may have difficult days in the planting; but like a farmer reaping a harvest, we also experience many seasons of joy. Take a few moments today to note your own blessings, and then lift your gratitude to God—the source of all good things.
Gracious God, how marvelous are your gifts! Give me joy today that will transform my struggles and turn darkness into light. Amen.
God is constantly performing works of renewal. Isaiah had warned Israel of judgment, yet here the prophet turns his attention to the other part of God’s message, that of restoration. God will breathe new life into the people, like sending rivers into the desert. The psalmist celebrates a communal festival in honor of the renewing deeds of God, who has turned their weeping into joy. Paul also experiences this work of renewal. He previously had boasted of his privileged position in society, but God has changed his thinking so that he considers his knowledge of Christ his greatest possession. In John a woman named Mary begins to point our attention to Christ’s coming passion by anointing Jesus’ feet. Crowds begin to gather, and the stage is set for the impending conflict.
Read Isaiah 43:16-21. When have you seen God make a way for a new thing in your life?
Read Psalm 126. Consider how your joy and laughter might heal others.
Read Philippians 3:4b-14. When has God’s strength helped you finish a race, literally or metaphorically?
Read John 12:1-8. God gives gifts to all of us. How do you share your gift from God with others?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.