Sunday- The Celebration Layer

joy-photo-advent-wreath

The Third Week of Advent: JOY

You’re welcome to layer any items that symbolize joy for the third layer of the wreath. Add festive ribbons, little ornaments, angels, bells- any items that remind you of joy and celebration. Deep, abiding, God-given joy is offered to us for all times of our lives- sometimes surprising us even during our difficult or sad moments. Place the candles on this layer. The Christ candle remains in the center, as usual.

Joy Resulting From Our Brokenness

Light the peace and hope candles.

Read Nehemiah 8:1-2, 5-6. 9-12

As the Word of God was being read, surely the Israelites were made painfully aware of their sinfulness. Hearing the law and commands of God, their tears flowed out of remorse and regret; their obvious sorrow for not living as God had intended them to live. And yet, Nehemiah, Ezra and the Levites instructed the Israelites NOT to grieve, but to celebrate! They were assured, “This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (vs. 10)

We receive many blessings from the Law of God. Certainly, when we follow God’s laws, we gain wisdom for our thoughts, words and actions- and much less regret or guilt. But we are also blessed even when we fail to follow God’s law. Our tendency to be self-centered or self-reliant may lead us to forget or ignore God’s commands. Then eventually- and painfully, regretfully- we realize our inadequacies and sinfulness. It is when we recognize our shortcomings, our mistakes, and our sinfulness, that we recognize our desperation for a God who loves and forgives us, always. And at that moment we receive the gift of joy- in knowing that we have such a God, through Jesus Christ, God’s son. Those times when we humbly know just how sinful we are then become opportunities when God can truly work in us; times that become “sacred days to our Lord.”

Have you been reminded of or shown your particular mistakes or shortcomings recently? How do these reminders make you feel? Are you able to find a gift in the awareness of your flaws?

Can you recall a time when you were so grateful to be forgiven, either by a person or by God? Did you feel relief? Did you feel humility? Did you feel joy?

 Today remember that “the joy of the Lord is your strength,” especially during our humbling imperfect moments.

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