Candle Lighting (2 minutes)
Commonly in Advent, lighting a candle is used to symbolize Jesus as the Light of the World coming into darkness. So, if you’re up for it, find a candle somewhere in your house. (Note: It doesn’t matter what it looks like or smells like. If you’d like, you can also purchase an Advent candle wreath wherever you get your Christmas supplies.)
Once you have a candle, turn off or dim the lights, light your candle, and have one person read the following prayer out loud:
God of Joy,
Your Son, Jesus, is your greatest gift to us.
He is a sign of your love.
Help us walk in that love during the weeks of Advent,
As we wait and prepare for his coming.
We pray in the name of Jesus, our Savior.
Read this Overview (2 minutes)
While anticipation can produce anxiety or fear, in Advent we remember that God’s original plan was that it cultivate joy and connect us to love himself. The perfect expression of love is God embodied, Jesus, and joy is the fruit or byproduct of knowing that God is near to us.
Christmas is a mixed bag of both joy and sadness for many. We each come to the holidays with some combination of disappointment, nostalgia, pain, and excitement. When it comes to joy, though, the truth is that many of us often confuse it with simply a good feeling or sentimentality. But it is so much more than that.
If joy as the culture sells it can only leave us numb, where does true joy come from? As we look in the Scriptures, true joy is ultimately born of and from salvation. And salvation is God stepping into and changing our reality, breathing life into the things we thought dead.
For the apprentice of Jesus, our salvation, our rescue from sin and its effects on our world, is not static. It is something that has happened and keeps happening. In the Scriptures, joy is rooted both in God and in the ways of God, or living life as God intended it. Through Jesus, God is showing us the best way to be human, to live a life filled with joy. In Advent, we watch as joy comes to earth and we wait for the fullness of it to come again.
Watch & Discuss (10 minutes)
For the next part of your time, watch the following video from BibleProject:
Discuss the following question together:
- What is one thing that stood out to you as you watched the video?
Read Scripture (10 minutes)
Read Luke 2v8–15 outloud and spend a few minutes in reflection.
Discussion Questions (15 minutes)
Spend some time working through the following questions:
- Where did I experience joy this last week?
- Where do I need to experience joy or remember the joy of my salvation this coming week?
- How can I embody and reflect God’s joy this week?
Practice for the Week Ahead (5 minutes)
For the week ahead, we’d invite you to spend some time leaning into the practice of joy.
To start, consider what kinds of experiences bring you joy. Perhaps you feel the joy of God in listening to or making music. Maybe being out in nature on a hike or at a local park cultivates joy in you. Or it could even be getting together with those you love to watch a Christmas movie and drink some hot chocolate.
Spend a few moments reflecting on how you (or your family or roommates) could engage in the practice of joy this week. As you reflect, begin to make a plan. Pick a day, time, and activity and put it on your calendar. You could drive through a local neighborhood Christmas light display with your family on Friday after work. Or you could wake up on Saturday morning, throw on a Christmas movie, and make a big pancake breakfast with your roommates. Or make a great cup of coffee and curl up by the fire with a new book and spend a few hours reading. You could make and decorate Christmas cookies for your neighbors, go out to Forest Park on a run, or do some Christmas crafts with friends.
Whatever you choose, make it simple, practical, and fun. And while you do it, be mindful of the joy you feel in those moments. Watch as that joy increases and, as you do, give thanks to God for it.