Spiritual Practices

The Joy of Advent

Scripture for this week:

December 16      Psalm 47, Hebrews 12:1-3, James 1:2-5
December 17      Psalm 16, Luke 2:15-20, Romans 15:5-13
December 18      Psalm 92, Matthew 2:1-12
December 19      Psalm 126, John 16:17-24, Hebrews 1:5-9
December 20      Isaiah 35:1-10, Psalm 4, 1 Peter 1:3-9
December 21      Isaiah 9:2-6, Psalm 72, John 3:22-35
December 22      Isaiah 61, Psalm 147:1-11, Romans 8:31-39

Happiness is circumstantial and fleeting. Joy is something different. Joy is an emotional response to our spiritual reality.

As Tim Mackie (The Bible Project) says, “Joy is very different from the trite advice to ‘turn that frown upside down.’ Christian joy is a profound decision of faith and hope in the power of Jesus’ own life and love.”

While the world beckons us to pursue only personal happiness and run from anything that infringes on it, we want to be a community that helps each other choose joy, even within circumstances that seem ugly or like they are impeding our happiness.

How do we keep our eyes on the faith and hope we have in God, empowering us to choose joy?

One way we can cultivate joy in our lives is by practicing gratitude. It’s not hard for us to recall the problems of life, but when we practice gratitude, it trains our hearts and minds to be on the lookout for demonstrations of God’s good gifts and mercies – even in the midst of life’s problems. Joy develops as a result.

This week, keep a gratitude list. This list can (and should!) include the beautiful things your life – your friendships and family relationships, the beauty of Wisconsin landscapes, or reminders of God’s faithfulness encountered in everyday life.

Your list could also include the difficult circumstances in your journey. When you write down a hard situation or a struggle in your life, let it be a declaration of your faith and hope in Jesus in the midst of that hardship. With God’s grace, practice the “profound decision of faith and hope” mentioned above.

Aim to add 5-10 things to your list each day. Let this practice draw your eyes and heart to God, whose goodness and love empower us to choose joy, no matter our circumstances.

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The Scripture reading plan and practices are also available in the YouVersion app. It’s called Practices of Advent (from Blackhawk Church.) You can also download and print the reading plan to keep in your Bible.

We will continue to post the weekly readings and practices each week on our blog. Subscribe to have those delivered directly to your inbox.