Light a Candle for Joy

It was a joyful celebration at Church this morning.  The children led worship…

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Throughout this Advent, I’ve been praying the St. Andrews novena:

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires through Jesus Christ and His blessed Mother. Amen.

This morning, I had my first taste of why this simple meditation on the nativity is so powerful.  It is always a sweet and moving experience to see the children and hear the Christmas music, but today my heart welled up with prayers that have been on my heart over the past year:  prayers for a friend with unresolved back pain, prayers for a family that took in a child from a troubled situation and then had to give the child back, prayers for those going through financial difficulties at Christmas, prayers for those who have lost loved ones, a family from Syria that my parents met, who found refuge in our town, and for baby Colbie in the NICU and a friend I would like God to grant all the intentions of his heart.  I prayed for Christians everywhere that we might be more unified and for Christians facing persecution.

As the whole church sang:

Joy to the world
The Lord has come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room

I hoped for Jesus to enter into all the situations on my heart.  I asked Jesus to bring healing, peace, strength, hope, and joy.

What the world received in that hour vouchsafe was Jesus, and deep down, I had a knowing that Jesus, a king born in a humble stable, who taught the world how to love one another, is the answer to my prayers and desires even today.

Looking back at my Bible journaling for the week…

First, I read the story of Samuel going to Jesse’s house to pick and anoint the future king.  The story has an almost impossibly Disney-like feel to it.  All the brothers arrive but one, and Samuel asks:  “Are all your children here?” (I was happy that some of the ladies in the Rooted in Hope Facebook group thought of the Cinderella story, too.  I’m not the only one!)

There’s something endearing to me that God chose the son who was at work, the shepherd, who would not leave the sheep to be part of the lineage of Christ:  “For the Lord sees not as a man sees for man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.”

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The next couple days were busy and was grateful that I had line art to color in My Promise Bible.

As I reflected on this passage from Amos and also the devotion by Ana Hahn in Rooted in Hope, I thought of how often we only learn to fully appreciate a good in our lives once we lose it (or think we might) and gain it back. A friend recently posted in Facebook that she didn’t appreciate her normal life until it was completely disrupted by a trip to a burn unit with her son who burnt his hand badly. In my own life, I had a frustrating night, but the next morning my kids woke up early and we had time to do the fun things I wanted to the prior night, but couldn’t. After reading Amos, I enjoyed them all the more! Simple joys!

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I had to travel for work this week.  I took my Bible, but forgot my coat!  The weather took a turn toward the frosty, too!  My favorite thing about working on the passage below:  It was read as part of the Christmas pageant today and I thought, “I know that passage!”

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The next reading was the book of Jonah.  First, let me say that Jonah was my absolute favorite Bible story as a child.  The way I have always read the story:  Jonah wanted to run away from God’s call, but God would stop at nothing, preserving his life in the belly of a giant fish, to fulfill His purpose in Jonah’s life.

The trouble is:  I have never liked the way the book of Jonah ends with the Jonah being distraught over a wilted gourd plant.  The author of the devotion read the story in a much different way:  As the story of a man who had a pretty irrational hatred of the people in Nineveh.  I never wanted to wrestle with that part of the story.  After reading the devotion and reflecting on this last chapter of Jonah,  I heard more clearly the message that God was telling Jonah: “God’s love is for everyone.” This is the simplest and best truth of all.

I found myself thinking of a friend of mine whose family survived the Armenian genocide.  She felt led by God to go to Turkey and walk in peace, and she did.  Some of her friends from families who also survived couldn’t understand; even an Armenian priest seemed puzzled by this desire to share love and peace in this way.  Perhaps, the person most changed by the experience was my friend; her eyes were opened to the persecuted church, and at the same time, she was changed by the warm hospitality with which she was received by people from many different traditions.  Her heart grew.

Jonah is one of the few prophets in the Bible, who people actually listen to.  The Ninevites were changed by their encounter with him and God shows His mercy and love to them.  Jonah clearly had trouble with this outcome.  The story of Jonah ends without telling us whether or not Jonah’s heart was changed after his conversation with God.

I think the final chapter of Jonah has been left unwritten on purpose.  The final chapter is the story of our own hearts and how they need to be enlarged to see all people as created and loved by God.

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My daughter came home from school with the cutest illustration on a worksheet titled “Grinch Growth” as I was reading this passage from Habbakuk:

Though the fig tree should not blossom nor fruit be in the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

As I worked on this page, thought about the passage and the story of the Grinch, I pondered the message that it’s our joy when joy is unexpected that grows the hearts of others and opens hearts to faith and love. (The happy and sad Grinch are my daughter’s.)

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The memory verse for this week….

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Last night my daughter said, “Let’s have a coloring party.”  My daughter colored pictures of Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, and I kept coloring until I colored all the Scripture readings.

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Every time I read the first chapter of John I find new insights.  Today, I found myself thinking more about John the Baptist…

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who said:  “Behold the Lamb of God.”

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The My Promise Bible has some pages with room for artwork in the back of the Bible, I used these to write out the passage from 1 Thessalonians since I’ve already added a lot of art to that page in my Bible…

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Spending time in the Word in a creative way has brought me so much joy this week as I prepare my heart for Christmas!  Only one more candle to light before the Christ candle!

 

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